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The Deadliest Disaster at Sea Killed Thousands, Yet Its Story Is Little-Known. Why?

In the final months of World War II, German citizens and soldiers fleeing the Soviet army died when the “Wilhelm Gustloff” sank. September 28th 2020

Smithsonian Magazine

  • Francine Uenuma


The Hospital Ship “Wilhelm Gustloff” docked in Danzig (modern-day Gdańsk, Poland) in September 1939. Photo from Wikimedia Commons / Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-H27992 / Sönnke, Hans / CC-BY-SA 3.0.

By the time the Soviet Union advanced on Germany’s eastern front in January of 1945, it was clear the advantage in World War II was with the Allies. The fall of the Third Reich was by this point inevitable; Berlin would succumb within months. Among the German populace, stories of rape and murder by vengeful Soviet forces inspired dread; the specter of relentless punishment pushed many living in the Red Army’s path to abandon their homes and make a bid for safety.

The province of East Prussia, soon to be partitioned between the Soviet Union and Poland, bore witness to what the Germans called Operation Hannibal, a massive evacuation effort to ferry civilians, soldiers and equipment back to safety via the Baltic Sea. German civilians seeking an escape from the advancing Soviets converged on the port city of Gotenhafen (now Gdynia, Poland), where the former luxury ocean liner Wilhelm Gustloff was docked. The new arrivals overwhelmed the city, but there was no turning them back. If they could get to the dock and if they could get on board, the Gustloff offered them a voyage away from besieged East Prussia.

“They said to have a ticket to the Gustloff is half of your salvation,” ship passenger Heinz Schön recalled in an episode of the early 2000s Discovery Channel series “Unsolved History.” “It was Noah’s Ark.”

The problem, however, was that the Soviet navy lay in wait for any transports that crossed their path and sank the Gustloff 75 years ago in what is likely the greatest maritime disaster in history. The death toll from its sinking numbered in the thousands, some put it as high as 9,000, far eclipsing those of the Titanic and Lusitania combined.

Most of the Gustloff’s estimated 10,000 passengers—which included U-boat trainees and members of the Women’s Naval Auxiliary—would die just hours after they boarded on January 30, 1945. The stories of the survivors and the memory of the many dead were largely lost in the fog of the closing war, amid pervasive devastation and in a climate where the victors would be little inclined to feel sympathy with a populace considered Nazis—or at the very least, Nazis by association.

Before the war, the 25,000-ton Wilhelm Gustloff had been used “to give vacationing Nazis ocean-going luxury,” the Associated Press noted shortly after its 1937 christening, part of the “Strength Through Joy” movement meant to reward loyal workers. The ship was named in honor of a Nazi leader in Switzerland who had been assassinated by a Jewish medical student the year before; Adolf Hitler had told mourners at Gustloff’s funeral that he would be in “the ranks of our nation’s immortal martyrs.”

The realities of war meant that instead of a vacationing vessel the Gustloff was soon used as a barracks; it had not been maintained in seaworthy condition for years before it was hastily repurposed for mass evacuation. Despite having earlier been prohibited from fleeing, German citizens understood by the end of January that no other choice existed. The Soviet advance south of them had cut off land routes; their best chance at escape was on the Baltic Sea.

Initially German officials issued and checked for tickets, but in the chaos and panic, the cold, exhausted, hungry and increasingly desperate pressed on board the ship and crammed into any available space. Without a reliable passenger manifest, the exact number of people onboard during the sinking will never be known, but what is beyond doubt is that when this vessel—built for less than 2,000 people—pushed off at midday on the 30th of January, it was many times over its intended capacity.

Early on, the ship’s senior officers faced a series of undesirable trade-offs. Float through the mine-laden shallower waters, or the submarine-infested deeper waters? Snow, sleet and wind conspired to challenge the crew and sicken the already beleaguered passengers. Captain Paul Vollrath, who served as senior second officer, later wrote in his account in Sea Breezes magazine that adequate escort ships were simply not available “in spite of a submarine warning having been circulated and being imminent in the very area we were to pass through.” After dark, to Vollrath’s dismay, the ship’s navigation lights were turned on—increasing visibility but making the massive ship a beacon for lurking enemy submarines.

Later that evening, as the Gustloff pushed into the sea and westward toward relative safety in the German city of Kiel, Hitler delivered what would be his last radio address and commanded the nation “to gird themselves with a yet greater, harder spirit of resistance,” sparing none: “I expect all women and girls to continue supporting this struggle with utmost fanaticism.” His futile exhortations were carried on the airwaves—and broadcast on the Gustloff itself—12 years to the day of when he formally assumed power on January 30, 1933.

Soon the nearby Soviet submarine S-13, under the command of Alexander Marinesko, who was in a tenuous position with his own chain of command after his mission was delayed by his land-based alcohol consumption habits, spotted the large, illuminated ship. It presented an easy target for a commander who could use a boost to his reputation. “He thought he would be a real hero for doing it,” says Cathryn J. Prince, author of Death in the Baltic: The World War II Sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff.

Shortly after 9 p.m., the S-13 unleashed three torpedoes, each inscribed with messages conveying the Soviets’ desire for revenge for the suffering inflicted on the Soviet populace by Nazi forces earlier in the war. These explosions impacted crew living quarters, the swimming pool area that housed members of the Women’s Naval Auxiliary, and finally the engine room and lower decks, dealing the ship its fatal blows and trapping many occupants with no means of escape.

The Gustloff was soon the scene of a mad scramble for survival. Even for those who could get off the mortally wounded ship and seek safety in the open water, the sheer number of passengers far exceeded the capacity of the life rafts. Survivor Horst Woit, who was just 10 years old, saw people—many of them children—trampled to death in an effort to get up the stairs and on to an available lifeboat (the ship was tilted toward the port side, so none of the lifeboats on the starboard side were accessible). After cutting the ropes with a knife he had taken from his uncle’s uniform, Woit was one of the lucky few on a boat moving away from the Gustloff. “A lot of the people jumped. And then they all tried to get on to the lifeboat and of course they pull you over and they get hit in the head with a paddle, and they get hit on the hands,” Woit told BBC Witness. “[It was] just gruesome, just awful. Most of them died.”

Mere feet separated the spared and the doomed. “Perhaps the decision not to take any more people and leave them to their fate was the hardest I ever had to make,” Vollrath wrote. “Here was comparative safety inside the boat, on the other side certain death.”

For those who remained on deck, it was becoming apparent that death in the freezing water was imminent. Schön, who ultimately devoted years to studying the shipwreck he had survived, later recounted in a documentary on the National Geographic Channel the agonizing decision of a father hanging off the listing ship—still wearing his swastika arm band—to shoot his wife and children. He ran out of bullets when he put the gun to his own head. “And then he let go and slide after his dead wife and his children across the icy, snow-covered deck, and over the side,” Schön recalled.

As German rescue boats summoned by the Gustloff’s crew approached to pick up survivors, they faced the same dilemma as those in lifeboats: who to pick up, and when to stop. They, too, were at risk from the S-13. Torpedo boat commander Robert Hering, aboard the T-36, had to make the decision to leave many more behind when his boat was at full capacity. He then had to take evasive maneuvers to avoid suffering the same fate as the Gustloff.

Just over an hour after the S-13’s torpedoes hit, the Gustloff sunk into the sea.

By the next morning, the waters surrounding the Gustloff were filled with bodies, many of them those of children whose lifejackets caused them to float upside down. Only one known survivor emerged from the floating graveyard—an infant wrapped tightly in blankets aboard a lifeboat, surrounded by deceased passengers. (The officer who found the infant would adopt and raise the boy). Of the passengers who had boarded the previous day a mere fraction—roughly 1,000—had survived.

Despite the magnitude of the tragedy, in the frenzied closing months of the war it would receive little attention. This may be partially attributed to the sheer pace and staggering death tolls happening across the European theater. Yet neither side—a Nazi Germany near defeat, nor a Soviet Union on its way to brutal victory—had an incentive to widely broadcast the deaths of so many citizens. It would be weeks before word of the Gustloff reached the United States, and then only a few short wire stories appeared citing snippets from Finnish radio broadcasts.

Furthermore, the Gustloff, though its toll is considered the highest, was not the only ship to go down in the Baltic during Operation Hannibal. Weeks later, the General von Steuben was also sunk by Marinesko (the credit he sought was slow in coming—his reputation didn’t recover in his lifetime, but he would be posthumously celebrated for his wartime actions.) In the spring, the sinking of the Goya would add another 7,000 to the Baltic toll; the Cap Arcona was sunk by British forces with 4,500 concentration camp prisoners on board.

In context, the Gustloff was another tragedy in a war full of losses. By then, “there was a stigma about discussing any sort of German suffering during the war after everything the Nazis did to the rest of Europe,” Edward Petruskevich, curator of the online Wilhelm Gustloff Museum, writes in an e-mail. “The Gustloff was just another casualty of war along with the countless other large ships sunk on the German side.”

Even if the details of the Gustloff or other German ships had been more widely or immediately known, considering the reigning public sentiment in the United States and other Allied countries it may not have elicited much sympathy. After years of total war, the fall of the Third Reich meant that German civilians also found themselves on the other side of a Manichean divide.

“I think there was that inability to look at the humanity of people who were the foe,” says Prince.

But whatever category those Wilhelm Gustloff victims fit into—U-boat trainees, Women’s Naval Auxiliary Members, Hitler Youth, reluctant conscripts, German civilians, mothers and children—they were part of a maritime tragedy that has yet to be rivaled in scale. In little over an hour, Vollrath wrote, the Gustloff had “dragged love, hope, and wishes down to the bottom of the sea.” Smithsonian Magazine

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The Invention That Won World War II

Patented in 1944, the Higgins boat gave the Allies the advantage in amphibious assaults.

Smithsonian Magazine

  • David Kindy


Photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Robert F. Sargent, U.S. Coast Guard / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain.

Thousands of flat-bottomed boats plowed through rough seas under cold gray skies. The smell of diesel fumes and vomit was overwhelming as the small vessels lurched toward the beaches. Waves slapped hard against the plywood hulls while bullets pinged off the flat steel bows.

Frightened men in uniform hunkered down beneath the gunwales to avoid the continuous enemy fire. Suddenly, they heard the sound of the keels grinding against sand and stone. Heavy iron ramps dropped into the surf and the men surged forward into the cold water toward an uncertain fate.

It was 6:28 a.m. on June 6, 1944, and the first LCVPs – Landing Craft, Vehicle and Personnel – had just come ashore on Utah Beach at Normandy. D-Day and the Allied invasion of Europe had commenced.

Less than four months earlier, the patent was issued for those very boats. Andrew Jackson Higgins had filed his idea with the U.S. Patent Office on December 8, 1941 – the day after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Now these 36-foot LCVPs – also known as Higgins boats – were being manufactured in the thousands to help American soldiers, marines and seamen attack the enemy through amphibious assaults.

Higgins’ creation had a dramatic impact on the outcome of the Normandy landings 75 years ago, as well as many other naval operations in World War II. The vessel’s unique design coupled with the inventor’s dogged determination to succeed may very well have swung the balance of victory to within grasp of the Allies. At least, that’s what President Dwight D. Eisenhower believed. “Andrew Higgins is the man who won the war for us,” he told author Stephen Ambrose in a 1964 interview. Screenshot_2020-07-31 USA102341866 - 1 pdf.png

Andrew Higgins’ “Lighter for Mechanized Equipment,” patented February 15, 1944. (U.S. Patent 2,341,866)

“His genius was problem-solving,” says Joshua Schick, a curator at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, which opened a D-Day exhibit in 2019 featuring a full-scale recreation of a Higgins boat. “Higgins applied it to everything in his life: politics, dealing with unions, acquiring workers, producing fantastical things or huge amounts of things. That was his essence.”

Higgins, a Nebraska native who established himself as a successful lumber businessman in New Orleans, began building boats in the 1930s. He concentrated on flat-bottomed vessels to meet the needs of his customers, who plied the shallow waters in and around the Mississippi River delta. He constantly tinkered with the concept as he sought to improve his boats to better match the ideal in his own mind of what these boats should be. DDayMuseumHigginsPA22-21_Sept07.jpg

A full-scale recreation of a Higgins Boat on display at the National WWII Museum, New Orleans. Infrogmation of New Orleans / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA.

During the Prohibition era, Higgins had a contract with the U.S. Coast Guard to build fast boats for chasing after rum runners. There are rumors that he then went to the rum runners and offered to sell them even faster boats. Schick doesn’t come right out and confirm the stories, but he doesn’t deny them either.

“That stuff is always fun to smile and chuckle about, but no one ever keeps a record saying that’s what they did,” he diplomatically states.

Higgins’ innovative spirit enabled a series of breakthroughs that led to the eventual design that became his namesake boat. First was the spoonbill bow that curled up near the ramp, forcing water underneath and enabling the craft to push up on to the shore and then back away after offloading. A ridge was later added to the keel, which improved stability. Then, a V-shaped keel was created and that allowed the boat to ride higher in the water.

“There was no task Higgins couldn’t do,” Schick says. “He would find a way to do something, then find a way to do it better.”

Higgins started making landing craft for the Navy when World War II began. He built a 30-footer, the Landing Craft Personnel (LCP), based on government specifications but he insisted a larger boat would perform better. The Navy relented and he came up with a 36-foot version, the Landing Craft Personnel Large (LCPL), that would become the standard for the rest of the war.

The Marines weren’t completely satisfied with this boat, though. The design required personnel and equipment to be offloaded by going over the side. In 1942, the Marines requested a ramp be added to the front of the vessel for faster egress.

“Higgins takes the LCPL, cuts the bow off, puts a ramp on it and then it becomes the LCVP, which becomes the famous Higgins Boat,” Schick says.

That landing craft, often referred to as “the boat that won World War II,” could quickly carry up to 36 men from transport ships to the beaches. It also could haul a Willys Jeep, small truck or other equipment with fewer troops. Higgins’ earlier modifications along with an ingenious protected propeller system built into the hull enabled the boats to maneuver in only 10 inches of water.

This version became the basis for a variety of designs and different configurations during World War II. LCA (Landing Craft Assault), LCM (Landing Craft Mechanized), LCU (Landing Craft Utility), LCT (Landing Craft Tank) and other models followed the same fundamental style, all built by Higgins or under license with his company, Higgins Industries. Higgins was named on 18 patents, most of which were for his boats or different design adaptations to the vessels.

At the height of World War II, Higgins Industries was the largest employer in the New Orleans area. More than 20,000 whites, blacks, women, elderly and handicapped people worked at seven plants in one of the first modern integrated workplaces in America. They produced a variety of landing craft in different shapes and sizes, PT boats, supply vessels and other specialized boats for the war effort.

Higgins developed a reputation for being able to do the impossible. Once, the Navy asked him if he could come up with plans for a new boat design in three days. “Hell,” he replied. “I can build the boat in three days.” And that is exactly what he did.

“The man was all about efficiency and getting things done,” Schick says. “The Navy began to realize that if there was an impossible task, just give it to Higgins and he’ll do it.”

The secret to Higgins success may have been his personality. He was driven to succeed and never let barriers slow him down. He often bulled his way through or over bureaucratic quagmires, labor difficulties, material shortages and negative-thinking people with a brusk attitude and a few salty words.

“As long as Higgins was the one in charge and didn’t have to rely on other people, he could bust through any obstacle that came in his way,” Schick says. “That attitude of determination and hard work helped him solve just about any issue.”

The Higgins Boat saw action in many amphibious landings throughout World War II. In addition to Normandy, they were used in Sicily, Anzio, Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Saipan, Okinawa, Peleliu and countless other beaches in the European and Pacific theaters of operation.

More than 20,000 of the Higgins-designed landing craft were made from 1942 to 1945, but fewer than 20 remain today. To commemorate D-Day, one of the surviving Higgins boats is on display, through July 27, in the gardens outside of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office headquarters and National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum in Alexandria, Virginia.

Their legacy cannot be understated. They changed the course of the war and provided the Allies with an ability to strike anywhere with speed and effectiveness – all because of the incredible pluck of the inventor, who was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame this year.

“Higgins was a man ahead of his time,” Schick says. “He had attitude and determination. He knew how to lead and organize. He surrounded himself with smart people and knew how to get the most out of them. He was a strong-minded man.” Smithsonian Magazine

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This post originally appeared on Smithsonian Magazine and was published June 3, 2019.

Comment It makes me sick how comfortable upper middle class media women, female public servants and brainwashed ‘uni’ girls arrogantly and pompously talk about privilged white males.

I know, having taught and lectured in history – researching and writing books – that what is taught is a rewrite , and ant white propaganda. Such prejudices , and false consciousness raising -are deemed acceptable in the modern police state. R J Cook

The Forgotten Story of the American Troops Who Got Caught Up in the Russian Civil War

Even after the armistice was signed ending World War I, the doughboys clashed with Russian forces 100 years ago.

Smithsonian Magazine

  • Erick Trickey


Allied troops in Vladivostok, Russia, in July 1918. Photo from the Hulton Archive / Getty Images.

It was 45 degrees below zero, and Lieutenant Harry Mead’s platoon was much too far from home. Just outside the Russian village of Ust Padenga, 500 miles north of Moscow, the American soldiers crouched inside two blockhouses and trenches cut into permafrost. It was before dawn on January 19, 1919.

Through their field glasses, lookouts gazed south into the darkness. Beyond the platoon’s position, flares and rockets flashed, and shadowy figures moved through tiny villages—Bolshevik soldiers from Russia’s Red Army, hoping to push the American invaders 200 miles north, all the way back to the frozen White Sea.

The first artillery shell flew at the Americans at dawn. Mead, 29, of Detroit, awoke, dressed, and ran to his 47-man platoon’s forward position. Shells fell for an hour, then stopped. Soldiers from the Bolshevik Red Army, clad in winter-white uniforms, rose up from the snow and ravines on three sides. They advanced, firing automatic rifles and muskets at the outnumbered Americans.

“I at once realized that our position was hopeless,” Mead recalled, as quoted in James Carl Nelson’s forthcoming book, The Polar Bear Expedition: The Heroes of America’s Forgotten Invasion of Russia. “We were sweeping the enemy line with machine gun and rifle fire. As soon as one wave of the enemy was halted on one flank another was pressing in on us from the other side.”

As the Red Army neared, with bayonets fixed on their guns, Mead and his soldiers retreated. They ran through the village, from house to house, “each new dash leaving more of our comrades lying in the cold and snow, never to be seen again,” Mead said. At last, Mead made it to the next village, filled with American soldiers. Of Mead’s 47-man platoon, 25 died that day, and another 15 were injured.

For the 13,000 American troops serving in remote parts of Russia 100 years ago, the attack on Mead’s men was the worst day in one of the United States’ least-remembered military conflicts. When 1919 dawned, the U.S. forces had been in Russia for months. World War I was not yet over for the 5,000 members of the 339th U.S. Army regiment of the American Expeditionary Force deployed near the port city of Archangel, just below the Arctic Circle, nor for the 8,000 troops from the 27th and 31st regiments, who were stationed in the Pacific Ocean port of Vladivostok, 4,000 miles to the east.

They had become bit players caught up in the complex international intrigue of the Russian Civil War. Russia had begun World War I as an ally of England and France. But the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, led by Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky, installed a communist government in Moscow and St. Petersburg that pulled Russia out of the conflict and into peace with Germany. By fall 1918, Lenin’s year-old government controlled only a part of central European Russia. Forces calling themselves the White Russians, a loose coalition of liberals, social democrats and loyalists to the assassinated czar, were fighting the Communists from the north, south, east and west.

Two months after the November 11, 1918, armistice that officially ended the war for the rest of Europe, as one million Americans in France were preparing to sail home, the U.S. troops in Russia found that their ill-defined missions had transformed into something even more obscure. Historians still debate why President Woodrow Wilson really sent troops to Russia, but they tend to agree that the two missions, burdened by Wilson’s ambiguous goals, ended in failures that foreshadowed U.S. foreign interventions in the century to come.

When Wilson sent the troops to Russia in July 1918, World War I still looked dire for the Allies. With the Russian Empire no longer engaged in the continental struggle, Germany had moved dozens of divisions to France to try to strike a final blow and end the war, and the spring 1918 German offensive had advanced to within artillery range of Paris.

Desperate to reopen an Eastern Front, Britain and France pressured Wilson to send troops to join Allied expeditions in northern Russia and far eastern Russia, and in July 1918, Wilson agreed to send 13,000 troops. The Allied Powers hoped that the White Russians might rejoin the war if they defeated the Reds.

To justify the small intervention, Wilson issued a carefully worded, diplomatically vague memo. First, the U.S. troops would guard giant Allied arms caches sent to Archangel and Vladivostok before Russia had left the war. Second, they would support the 70,000-man Czechoslovak Legion, former prisoners of war who had joined the Allied cause and were fighting the Bolsheviks in Siberia. Third, though the memo said the U.S. would avoid “intervention in [Russia’s] internal affairs,” it also said the U.S. troops would aid Russians with their own “self-government or self-defense.” That was diplomacy-speak for aiding the White Russians in the civil war.

“This was a movement basically against the Bolshevik forces,” says Doran Cart, senior curator at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City. “[But] we couldn’t really go in and say, ‘This is for fighting the Bolsheviks.’ That would seem like we were against our previous ally in the war.”

Wilson’s stated aims were so ambiguous that the two U.S. expeditions to Russia ended up carrying out very different missions. While the troops in north Russia became embroiled in the Russian Civil War, the soldiers in Siberia engaged in an ever-shifting series of standoffs and skirmishes, including many with their supposed allies.

The U.S. soldiers in northern Russia, the U.S. Army’s 339th regiment, were chosen for the deployment because they were mostly from Michigan, so military commanders figured they could handle the war zone’s extreme cold. Their training in England included a lesson from Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton on surviving below-zero conditions. Landing in Archangel, just below the Arctic Circle, in September 1918, they nicknamed themselves the Polar Bear Expedition.

Under British command, many of the Polar Bears didn’t stay in Archangel to guard the Allied arms cache at all. The British goal was to reach the Russian city of Kotlas, a railroad crossing where, they hoped, they might use the railway to connect with the Czechoslovak Legion in the east. So British officer Lieutenant General Frederick Poole deployed the Polar Bears in long arcs up to 200 miles south of Archangel, along a strategic railroad and the Dvina and Vaga rivers.

But they never got to Kotlas. Instead, the Allied troops’ overextended deployment led to frequent face-to-face combat with the Bolshevik army, led by Leon Trotsky and growing in strength. One company of Americans, along with Canadian and Scottish troops, fought a bloody battle with Bolshevik forces on November 11, 1918 — Armistice Day in France.

“Events moved so fast in 1918, they made the mission moot,” says Nelson, author of The Polar Bear Expedition. “They kept these guys in isolated, naked positions well into 1919. The biggest complaint you heard from the soldiers was, ‘No one can tell us why we’re here,’ especially after the Armistice.” The Bolshevik Revolution had “dismayed” most Americans, Russia scholar Warren B. Walsh wrote in 1947, “mostly because we thought that the Bolsheviks were German agents or, at least, were playing our enemy’s game.” But with Germany’s defeat, many Americans — including many Polar Bears — questioned why U.S. troops were still at war.

While the Polar Bears played a reluctant role in the Russian Civil War, the U.S. commander in Siberia, General William Graves, did his best to keep his troops out of it. In August 1918, before Graves left the U.S., Secretary of War Newton Baker met the general to personally hand him Wilson’s memo about the mission. “Watch your step; you will be walking on eggs loaded with dynamite,” Baker warned Graves. He was right.

Graves and the AEF Siberia landed in Vladivostok that month with, as Graves later wrote, “no information as to the military, political, social, economic, or financial situation in Russia.” The Czechs, not the Bolsheviks, controlled most of Siberia, including the Trans-Siberian Railway. Graves deployed his troops to guard parts of the railway and the coal mines that powered it — the lifeline for the Czechs and White Russians fighting the Red Army.

But Russia’s quickly shifting politics complicated Graves’ mission. In November 1918, an authoritarian White Russian admiral, Alexander Kolchak, overthrew a provisional government in Siberia that the Czechs had supported. With that, and the war in Europe over, the Czechs stopped fighting the Red Army, wanting instead to return to their newly independent homeland. Now Graves was left to maintain a delicate balance: keep the Trans-Siberian Railway open to ferry secret military aid to Kolchak, without outright joining the Russian Civil War. Kolchak_decorating_troops.jpg

Alexander Kolchak decorates his troops. Photo from Wikicommons / Public Domain.

Opposition to the Russia deployments grew at home. “What is the policy of our nation toward Russia?” asked Senator Hiram Johnson, a progressive Republican from California, in a speech on December 12, 1918. “I do not know our policy, and I know no other man who knows our policy.” Johnson, a reluctant supporter of America’s entry into World War I, joined with anti-war progressive Senator Robert La Follette to build opposition to the Russia missions.

The Bolsheviks’ January 1919 offensive against American troops in north Russia — which began with the deadly attack on Mead’s platoon — attracted attention in newspapers across the nation. For seven days, the Polar Bears, outnumbered eight to one, retreated north under fire from several villages along the Vaga River. On February 9, a Chicago Tribune political cartoon depicted a giant Russian bear, blood dripping from its mouth, confronting a much smaller soldier holding the U.S. flag. “At Its Mercy,” the caption read.

On February 14, Johnson’s resolution challenging the U.S. deployment in north Russia failed by one vote in the Senate, with Vice President Thomas Marshall breaking a tie to defeat it. Days later, Secretary of War Baker announced that the Polar Bears would sail home “at the earliest possible moment that weather in the spring will permit” — once the frozen White Sea thawed and Archangel’s port reopened. Though Bolshevik attacks continued through May, the last Polar Bears left Archangel on June 15, 1919. Their nine-month campaign had cost them 235 men. “When the last battalion set sail from Archangel, not a soldier knew, no, not even vaguely, why he had fought or why he was going now, and why his comrades were left behind — so many of them beneath the wooden crosses,” wrote Lieutenant John Cudahy of the 339th regiment in his book Archangel.

But Wilson decided to keep U.S. troops in Siberia, to use the Trans-Siberian Railway to arm the White Russians and because he feared that Japan, a fellow Allied nation that had flooded eastern Siberia with 72,000 troops, wanted to take over the region and the railroad. Graves and his soldiers persevered, but they found that America’s erstwhile allies in Siberia posed the greatest danger.

Sticking to Wilson’s stated (though disingenuous) goal of non-intervention in the Russian Civil War, Graves resisted pressure from other Allies—Britain, France, Japan, and the White Russians—to arrest and fight Bolsheviks in Siberia. Wilson and Baker backed him up, but the Japanese didn’t want the U.S. troops there, and with Graves not taking their side, neither did the White Russians.

Across Siberia, Kolchak’s forces launched a reign of terror, including executions and torture. Especially brutal were Kolchak’s commanders in the far east, Cossack generals Grigori Semenov and Ivan Kalmikov. Their troops, “under the protection of Japanese troops, were roaming the country like wild animals, killing and robbing the people,” Graves wrote in his memoir. “If questions were asked about these brutal murders, the reply was that the people murdered were Bolsheviks and this explanation, apparently, satisfied the world.” Semenov, who took to harassing Americans along the Trans-Siberian Railway, commanded armored trains with names such as The Merciless, The Destroyer, and The Terrible.

Just when the Americans and the White Russian bandits seemed on the verge of open warfare, the Bolsheviks began to win the Russian Civil War. In January 1920, near defeat, Kolchak asked the Czech Legion for protection. Appalled at his crimes, the Czechs instead turned Kolchak over to the Red Army in exchange for safe passage home, and a Bolshevik firing squad executed him in February. In January 1920, the Wilson administration ordered U.S. troops out of Siberia, citing “unstable civil authority and frequent local military interference” with the railway. Graves completed the withdrawal on April 1, 1920, having lost 189 men.

Veterans of the U.S. interventions in Russia wrote angry memoirs after coming home. One Polar Bear, Lieutenant Harry Costello, titled his book, Why Did We Go To Russia? Graves, in his memoir, defended himself against charges he should’ve aggressively fought Bolsheviks in Siberia and reminded readers of White Russian atrocities. In 1929, some former soldiers of the 339th regiment returned to North Russia to recover the remains of 86 comrades. Forty-five of them are now buried in White Chapel Cemetery near Detroit, surrounding a white statue of a fierce polar bear.

Historians tend to see Wilson’s decision to send troops to Russia as one of his worst wartime decisions, and a foreshadowing of other poorly planned American interventions in foreign countries in the century since. “It didn’t really achieve anything—it was ill-conceived,” says Nelson of the Polar Bear Expedition. “The lessons were there that could’ve been applied in Vietnam and could’ve been applied in Iraq.”

Jonathan Casey, director of archives at the World War I Museum, agrees. “We didn’t have clear goals in mind politically or militarily,” he says. “We think we have an interest to protect, but it’s not really our interest to protect, or at least to make a huge effort at it. Maybe there are lessons we should’ve learned.”

Erick Trickey is a writer in Boston, covering politics, history, cities, arts, and science. He has written for POLITICO Magazine, Next City, the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, and Cleveland Magazine.Smithsonian Magazine

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Comment Lessons will never be learned because wars are for the rich and powerful’s benefit, even if the adversaries leaders include Musliims. Muslim leaders are all about power and religious delusion for the purpose of control.

The alliance against the Bolsheviks was orchestrated by a rich elite. The Romanov’s were vile. They asked for what they got. The British Royal family did not want them living in Britain , even though the Tsar wa s first cousin to the British King. Democracy is just a word, in practice it has always has been a sham and con. War on the Bolsheviks was the first manifestation of the U.S Domino Theory that justified their war of attrition in Vietnam..

R.J Cook September 22nd 2020

Hitler’s Rise September 10th 2020

The first Me 109s had Rolls Royece Merlin Engines and the first BMWs were Austin 7s renamed ‘Dixie.’ World Wars One and Two were trade wars between two closely related nations who’s heads of State were first cousins.
Image Appledene Archivess

By Peter Ross Range August 31, 2020 12:30 PM EDT

Adolf Hitler did not have to come to power. Indeed, during his 13-year quest for leadership of Germany, he almost failed many times.

In the end, however, his astonishing success showed how demagoguery could overcome potentially career-ending challenges—and profoundly change history. A determined strongman, not taken seriously by the elites but enabled by a core of passionate supporters, could bend events his way just as his country went into free-fall. Hitler’s seemingly improbable ascent is an object lesson in the volatility of history.

While researching my new book on the radical Nazi’s rise, I was stunned at the number of times Hitler’s quest for power almost came to an end—and how close the world came, it seems, to avoiding the terror he caused. The first was in 1923, when he staged an ill-fated coup d’état that became known as the Beer Hall Putsch. It failed within 17 hours. Twenty men were killed, and Hitler missed being hit in a barrage of police bullets by only two feet. The man next to him died. Hitler threatened suicide and, in prison, attempted a hunger strike. In the end, he stood trial and was convicted of treason.

That event should have ended Hitler’s political career. But the Nazi chief was a fanatic. Convinced of his messianic mission to save Germany from imminent downfall, he wrote an autobiographical manifesto called Mein Kampf, obtained early parole from prison and refounded the Nazi movement in 1925. Hitler’s party drew true believers and grew. Yet in 1926, he faced an internal insurrection and possible party splintering. At the last minute, he quelled the challenge with a four-hour stemwinder at a closed Nazi meeting.

A year later, the Nazi Party was broke. Hitler again considered suicide, telling his new acolyte, Joseph Goebbels, that he would rather put a bullet into his head than accept bankruptcy. He was saved by a rich industrialist, Emil Kirdorf. Motivated by a four-hour Hitler monologue delivered at a Munich mansion, Kirdorf reportedly gave the Nazi Party 100,000 marks—$350,000 in today’s money.

In 1928, Hitler led his radical band into national elections—and fell flat. Preaching doom and downfall, Hitler swam against the historical tide. Germany’s economy was rebounding. The Nazis won only 2.6% of the vote, hitting rock bottom.

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Even after the Great Depression prompted a turnaround for the flailing party—by 1930, the Nazis had won 18.3% in a national election—he faced another mutiny within the party and then, in 1931, a scandal prompted by the suicide of his 23-year-old niece, Geli Raubal, who was assumed by many to be his lover. The political roller-coaster ride continued. In 1932, Hitler’s Nazis reached a peak of 37% of the parliamentary vote, but Hitler’s refusal to be part of a coalition led the party to shed two million votes in the year’s final election.

After Hitler’s top lieutenant, Gregor Strasser, dramatically defected, threatening a party break-up, the Nazi leader’s meteoric political rise seemed at an end. “It is obvious that [Hitler] is now headed downhill,” wrote a leading newspaper. “The republic has been rescued.”

Even Goebbels was devastated. “The year 1932 has been one long streak of bad luck,” he wrote. “We just have to smash it to pieces.”

But to the amazement of many, Hitler was not dead yet.

By January 1933, German politics was in a tailspin—unemployment had hit 24%, with 6 million out of work. A new government was desperately needed. After a series of clandestine meetings of behind-the-scenes political players in a posh Berlin villa, Hitler emerged as the secret choice to be appointed chancellor by President Paul von Hindenburg.

However, the secret arrangement depended on a delicately balanced, multi-party cabinet. Then, just hours before his scheduled swearing in by President Hindenburg, the Nazi leader demanded that his prospective cabinet ministers agree to new elections within six weeks—a move that would affirm the Nazis’ hold on power. It was a stunning last-second condition, yet all agreed except Alfred Hugenberg, who was to be minister of economics and agriculture. The stubborn old politician, 24 years Hitler’s senior, distrusted the noisy Nazi and did not want to give him an even freer hand.

The deal for Hitler to take power now threatened to become unraveled, yet again.

Without Hugenberg, everyone knew, there would be no cabinet, no government, no swearing-in.

As Hitler and the cabinet members entered the chancellery, where the 84-year-old Hindenburg waited for them, the president’s top aide rushed up, his pocket watch in hand. “Gentlemen, you can’t keep the president waiting any longer,” he said.

Suddenly Hugenberg, a man of the old school who revered manners, authority and age, accepted Hitler’s conditions. Hitler’s last brush with political obscurity was averted. Over the prior two decades, he had relied on luck and rhetoric to save his career time and again—but behind those factors lay, always, a larger context of German politics that enabled his rise. His speeches could head off a mutiny, but the success or failure of the German economy held more sway over the fortunes of the Nazi Party. And here, once again, was a moment when Hitler’s mania for power did not succeed alone, but instead with the help of a system that let it happen. Within 15 minutes, he had become chancellor of Germany, setting the stage for the horrors that followed.

The following day, Hugenberg told a friend: “Yesterday, I did the stupidest thing of my life. I joined forces with the greatest demagogue in world history.” Little Brown

Peter Ross Range, a former TIME correspondent, is the author of The Unfathomable Ascent: How Adolf Hitler Came to Power, available now from Little Brown and Company.

5 of the worst atrocities carried out by the British Empire

A YouGov poll found 43 per cent of Brits thought the British Empire was a good thing, while 44 per cent were proud of Britain’s history of colonialism


Queen Victoria’s Statue, Guildhall Square Portsmouth. Image Appledene Photographics/RJC

A new YouGov poll has found the British public are generally proud of the British Empire and its colonial past.

YouGov found 44 per cent were proud of Britain’s history of colonialism, with 21 per cent regretting it happened and 23 per cent holding neither view.

The same poll also found 43 per cent believed the British Empire was a good thing, 19 per cent said it was bad and 25 per cent said it was “neither”.

At its height in 1922, the British empire governed a fifth of the world’s population and a quarter of the world’s total land area.

Although the proponents of Empire say it brought various economic developments to parts of the world it controlled, critics point to massacres, famines and the use of concentration camps by the British Empire.

1. Boer concentration camps

. A memorial to war dead in Portsmouth’s Victoria Park. Portsmouth was the hub of troop embarkation for Britain’s colonial wars. The city’s Victoria Park is arrayed with monuments to dead working class servicemen and their upper crust officers.

As Gladstone complained of Imperialists and Victoria loving Disraeli, ‘All across Africa is a stain of blood.’ Queen Victoria loved Portsmouth, the Isle of Wight and Osborne House even better. She also loved her empire.
Image Appledene Photographics/RJC

Armed Afrikaners on the veldt near Ladysmith during the second Boer War, circa 1900

During the Second Boer War (1899-1902), the British rounded up around a sixth of the Boer population – mainly women and children – and detained them in camps, which were overcrowded and prone to outbreaks of disease, with scant food rations.

Of the 107,000 people interned in the camps, 27,927 Boers died, along with an unknown number of black Africans.

2. Amritsar massacre

When peaceful protesters defied a government order and demonstrated against British colonial rule in Amritsar, India, on 13 April 1919, they were blocked inside the walled Jallianwala Gardens and fired upon by Gurkhas.

The soldiers, under the orders of Brigadier Reginald Dyer, kept firing until they ran out of ammunition, killing between 379 and 1,000 protesters and injuring another 1,100 within 10 minutes.

Brigadier Dyer was later lauded a hero by the British public, who raised £26,000 for him as a thank you.

3. Partitioning of India

British lawyer and law lord Cyril Radcliffe, 1st Viscount Radcliffe (1899 – 1977) at the Colonial Office, London, July 1956

In 1947, Cyril Radcliffe was tasked with drawing the border between India and the newly created state of Pakistan over the course of a single lunch.

After Cyril Radcliffe split the subcontinent along religious lines, uprooting over 10 million people, Hindus in Pakistan and Muslims in India were forced to escape their homes as the situation quickly descended into violence.

Some estimates suggest up to one million people lost their lives in sectarian killings.

4. Mau Mau Uprising

Mau Mau suspects at one of the prison camps in 1953

Thousands of elderly Kenyans, who claim British colonial forces mistreated, raped and tortured them during the Mau Mau Uprising (1951-1960), have launched a £200m damages claim against the UK Government.

Members of the Kikuyu tribe were detained in camps, since described as “Britain’s gulags” or concentration camps, where they allege they were systematically tortured and suffered serious sexual assault.

Estimates of the deaths vary widely: historian David Anderson estimates there were 20,000, whereas Caroline Elkins believes up to 100,000 could have died.

5. Famines in India

Between 12 and 29 million Indians died of starvation while it was under the control of the British Empire, as millions of tons of wheat were exported to Britain as famine raged in India.

In 1943, up to four million Bengalis starved to death when Winston Churchill diverted food to British soldiers and countries such as Greece while a deadly famine swept through Bengal.

Talking about the Bengal famine in 1943, Churchill said: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion. The famine was their own fault for breeding like rabbits.”

War Monger Churchill, Portsmouth 1940, From ‘Portsmouth Voices’ by Robert Cook

A BRIEF HISTORY OF POLAND Posted July 14th 2020

By Tim Lambert

Dedicated to Agnieszka Jurkowska

Poland in the Middle Ages

The written history of Poland began in the 10th century. At that time Poland was ruled by a dynasty called the Piasts. A Piast named Mieszko I reigned from about 960 to 992. In 966 he became a Christian and his people followed.

A king named Boleslaw the Wrymouth (reigned 1102-1138) decided that after his death the kingdom should be divided between his sons. (Although the eldest son was to have overall control). This decision weakened Poland.

In the 12th and 13th centuries Poland prospered and town life flourished. A king named Henry the Bearded reigned from 1201 to 1238. His wife Jadwiga encouraged German merchants and craftsmen to come and live in Poland. They founded towns with German laws. Some Germans also came to farm uncultivated land in Poland.

However in 1241-42 the Mongols invaded Poland. The Poles were defeated at the battle of Legnica in April 1241 but the Mongols soon withdrew.

Another threat to Poland came from the Teutonic Knights. They were an order of fighting monks. They set out to conquer the Pagan peoples of eastern Europe and convert them by force. In 1235 they began conquering the pagan Prussians (who lived northeast of Poland). By 1283 Teutonic the Knights had conquered the Prussians. However, in 1308 they turned on Poland. They took eastern Pomerania including the town of Gdansk, which they renamed Danzig.

Yet in the early 14th century Poland became a strong and unified state. Kazimierz III, known as Kazimierz the Great (reigned 1333-1370) expanded east into Russia. He also reformed the law and administration. Furthermore, during his reign, the first university in Poland, Krakow, was founded.

Kazimierz also protected and supported the Jews. It was partly due to him that Poland came to have a large Jewish community.

The era from the 14th century to the 16th century was one of greatness for Poland. Nevertheless, the power of the king gradually weakened. The Polish nobility became more and more powerful.

Kazimierz was succeeded by his nephew Louis, the king of Hungary. Louis wanted his daughter to succeed as ruler of Poland him but to obtain the agreement of the Polish nobles, he was forced to grant them concessions. The Privilege of Koszyce (1374) made the nobles exempt from most kinds of tax. It also gave them an important role in government. In the future, no important decision could be made without their consent.

The Jagiellonians Rule Poland

In 1384 the Polish nobles finally accepted Louis’ daughter Jadwiga as Queen of Poland. They also arranged for her to marry Jagiello, Grand Duke of Lithuania and the two countries became allies. Jagiello became Wladyslaw II of Poland (reigned 1386-1434). Wladyslaw joined the Catholic church and his people followed.

In 1410 Poland and Lithuania utterly defeated the Teutonic Knights at the battle of Grunwald.

Then, in 1453 the people of Pomerania rebelled against the Teutonic Knights and appealed to the Poles for help. After 13 years of fighting the Poles took Pomerania and Gdansk.

However in the late 15th century the Polish nobles became increasingly powerful and the monarchy grew weaker. In 1505 the king agreed that no political changes would be made without the consent of the nobles.

The 16th century was an age of economic prosperity for Poland. Furthermore learning flourished in Poland. The greatest Polish scholar was Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543). In his day people believed that the Sun and the planets orbited the earth. In 1543 Copernicus published a theory that the Earth and the other planets orbit the Sun. At the time it was a revolutionary teaching.

However like the rest of Europe Poland was rocked by the reformation. Polish Protestants were divided into Lutherans and Calvinists.

However in the 1560s the Jesuits arrived in Poland. They created a network of schools and colleges across Poland and they managed to defeat the Protestants. Nevertheless the Compact of Warsaw, 1573 allowed freedom of worship in Poland.

Meanwhile in 1569 by the Union of Lublin Poland and Lithuania formed a federation with the same king and parliament but separate armies and legal codes.

When the last Jagiellonian king died in 1572 without leaving an heir the Polish monarchy became elective. The king was elected by an assembly of all the Polish nobles. Then in 1596 Warsaw became the capital of Poland instead of Krakow.

Poland in the 17th Century

The 17th century was a troubled one for Poland. At that time the Poles controlled the Ukrainian Cossacks. However in 1648 they rebelled and in 1654 the Russians joined them in a war against the Poles. In 1655 the Swedes invaded Poland and overran most of it. However the Poles rallied and the war with Sweden ended in 1660. The war with Russian ended in 1667. However the wars left Poland devastated. Apart from the material damage a large part of the Polish population was killed.

In the late 17th century Poland scored some great military successes. At that time the Turks ruled Southeast Europe and they tried to drive further into the continent. However in 1673 a Pole named Jan Sobieski was elected king. In 1683 the Turks laid siege to Vienna but Sobieski defeated them and drove them back.

However in the late 17th century Poland was severely weakened by the lack of an effective central government. A single member of the Sejm could veto any measure. Furthermore a single member could dissolve the Sejm. That meant all measures already passed by that Sejm were cancelled and they had to be re-submitted to a new Sejm. As a result government was paralyzed.

Poland in the 18th Century

In the 18th century Poland continued its political and military decline. Prussia and Russia took advantage of the lack of a strong central government to interfere in Poland. In 1697 Frederick Augustus of Saxony became king of Poland. When he died in 1733 a Russian army marched into Poland and compelled the Sejm to elect his son king. Increasingly Poland was the plaything of the great powers.

In 1764, after the Polish king died Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, intervened to have her former lover Stanislaw Poniatowski elected the new king of Poland. However, Poniatowski refused to be a Russian pawn. He and some other prominent Poles wanted reforms to strengthen the monarchy. However, the Russians would not allow it. It was in Russia’s interests to keep Poland weak and divided. There were also many conservative Polish nobles who were unwilling to surrender their privileges.

In 1767 the Russians forced Poland to accept a treaty. The treaty guaranteed the borders of Poland. It also guaranteed the rights of Orthodox Christians. (Although most Poles were Roman Catholics a small minority belonged to the Eastern Orthodox Church). It also guaranteed the rights of Polish nobles. Russia would intervene if their rights were threatened. (The noble’s rights kept Poland weak and without a strong central government so it was in Russia’s interests to protect them).

Anger at Russian interference led to a Polish uprising called the Confederacy of Bar between 1768 and 1772. However, the Russians eventually crushed the rebellion.

The great powers, Russia, Prussia and Austria then decided to help themselves to Polish territory. Prussia took Pomerania (northern Poland) cutting Poland off from the sea. Austria took Galicia. Russia took what is now eastern Belarus.

The shock of losing much of their territory galvanized the Poles into action. They reformed education and the army. They also reformed their government. The Four Years Sejm (1788-1792) created a new constitution for Poland in 1791.

However in 1793 there was a second partition. Russia and Prussia took more Polish territory. The 1791 constitution was annulled. In 1794 the Poles rebelled but they were crushed by the Prussians and Russians. Finally, in 1795 Prussia, Russia and Austria divided the last part of Poland between them. The Polish king abdicated and the Polish state ceased to exist.

In 1807 Napoleon turned some of the Polish territories into the Duchy of Warsaw, a French satellite state. In 1812 almost 100,000 Poles fought with Napoleon against Russia.

19th Century Poland

At the Congress of Vienna in 1815 the great European powers divided up the continent. Poland was divided between Prussia, Russia, and Austria. Prussia took the western and northern parts of Poland while Russia took the center and east. Austria kept Galicia.

The great powers were not willing to restore Polish independence. Instead, they created a semi-independent Poland. The Russian part of Poland was made into the Kingdom of Poland. The Tsar was the monarch but his powers were limited and the kingdom had its government and army.

However the Poles were dissatisfied and in 1830 rebellion broke out. Some Polish soldiers attempted to assassinate the Tsar’s brother and the Polish Diet (parliament) declared the Tsar deposed. However, the Russian army invaded and by September 1831 the Polish army was defeated.

Afterwards the Tsar suspended the Polish constitution and ruled by decree. The Polish army was disbanded. As a result of the repression, many Poles emigrated to France or North America.

The Poles rebelled again in 1863. The rebellion lasted for 18 months but it was eventually crushed. Afterward, the Kingdom of Poland was dissolved and the area was renamed the ‘Vistula Provinces’. Russian was made the official language of government and the Poles were forced to use it in schools – part of a policy to suppress Polish culture. On the other hand, the Tsar abolished serfdom.

The Prussians tried to suppress Polish culture in the western part of the country but they could not. Polish culture flourished in the late 19th century and the Poles formed political movements including the Nationalist League, the Christian Democrats and the Polish Socialist Party.

20th Century Poland

Poland eventually regained its freedom after the First World War. In 1916 the Germans conquered the Russian held parts of Poland. To curry favor with the Poles the Germans promised to form a Polish kingdom after the war.

Meanwhile polish General Jozef Pilsudski (1867-1935) led a Polish force in the war against the Russians. However Pilsudski fell out with the Germans and in 1917 was interned. He was released just before the Germans surrendered on 11 November 1918. Meanwhile in January 1918 US President Wilson made clear his support for an independent Poland after the war.

On 11 November 1918, the day of the German surrender the Poles took charge of their country and the German troops were expelled. On 14 November 1918 Pilsudski became provisional head of state. In January 1919 a constitutional assembly was elected in Poland. A new constitution was published in 1921.

After the war the allies decided that Poland should have access to the sea. They gave Poland a strip of land called the Polish corridor, which cut through Germany. It meant that East Prussia was cut off from the rest of Germany. Danzig (Gdansk) was made an independent city state.

In its early years Poland fought border wars. In 1919 it fought a brief war with Czechoslovakia. However a much longer war was fought against Russia in 1919-1921.

As well as wars the Polish republic faced other problems. In 1922 the President, Gabriel Narutowicz was assassinated. Then in May 1926 Pilsudski led a military coup and became dictator. Pilsudski kept the outward forms of democracy. The Sejm continued to meet and political parties were allowed to continue. However Pilsudski held real power until his death in 1935.

Meanwhile in the 1930s Poland was threatened by both Nazi Germany and Communist Russia. In 1939 the two signed a secret agreement to divide Poland between them.

Poland in the Second World War

Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939. The Poles fought valiantly but on 17 September the Russians invaded from the east. (The Russians and the Germans had already secretly agreed to divide Poland between them). The Polish position was hopeless but the Poles continued to fight both the Germans and the Russians. Warsaw fell on 27 September 1939 and all resistance ceased by 5 October.

Some Polish soldiers and airman escaped through Hungary and Romania to France and some Polish warships escaped to join the British navy. A Polish army was reformed in France and by the Spring of 1940, it had almost 200,000 men. (The Poles also fought in the Norwegian campaign in May 1940). After the fall of France in June 1940 Polish airmen played a major role in the Battle of Britain.

Meanwhile parts of Poland were absorbed into Germany. The rest of the German-occupied Poland was organized under a General Government. The Russian occupied parts of Poland were absorbed into the Soviet Union.

The German-Soviet occupation of Russia meant terrible suffering for the Polish people. Polish Jews were exterminated. Altogether about 3 million Polish Jews were murdered. About 3 million other Poles were killed.

Hitler hated Slavs and he claimed they were sub-human. The Nazis planned to turn the Poles into a nation of slaves who would do menial work for their German masters. Poles would be given as little education as possible. Therefore vast numbers of highly educated Poles were murdered. All Polish universities and secondary schools were closed. Furthermore, Polish industry and estates were confiscated by the Germans.

Any act of resistance, however slight, was punished by execution or by deportation to a concentration camp. Despite the tyranny, the Poles formed a powerful resistance movement. By 1943 partisans were fighting in the forests of Poland.

The Russians imposed their own tyranny in eastern Poland. Thousands of Polish officers were murdered.

When Germany invaded Russia in June 1941 the Polish government in exile in Britain, which was led by Prime Minister Sikorski, made an agreement with the Russians. On 30 June 1941, they signed a treaty in London, which ended the war between them.

Stalin promised to release Polish prisoners of war and the huge number of Poles who had been deported to Siberia. In Russia, there were almost 200,000 Polish prisoners-of-war. They were released and allowed to form a Polish army in Russia. However, in 1942 Stalin cut supplies to the Polish army fighting in Russia and they were evacuated to the Middle East.

Furthermore relations between Stalin and the Polish government in exile deteriorated over disagreements over the border between Poland and Russia. Stalin insisted that Poland’s eastern provinces should be absorbed into the Soviet Union after the war.

Matters came to a head in April 1943 after the Germans discovered the Katyn massacre. When the Russians conquered eastern Poland they murdered 4,500 Polish officers and buried them in Katyn Forest. The Russians claimed the Germans committed the massacre after they invaded eastern Poland (and Russia) in 1941. The Polish government in exile wanted the International Red Cross to investigate but Stalin refused and broke off diplomatic relations. Prime Minister Sikorski was killed on 4 July 1943 and was replaced by Stanislaw Mikolajczyk.

However Stalin was determined to impose a communist government on Poland and Polish communists were willing to co-operate with him. The Poles realized that if the Russians occupied Poland they would simply impose their will on the country. The only hope of preserving Polish independence was to stage an uprising in Warsaw before the Russians arrived. The Warsaw rising began on 1 August 1944. The Poles fought bravely but they could not win. They were forced to surrender on 2 October 1944. Warsaw was left in ruins. Stalin, of course, did nothing to help the uprising. All he had to do was stand by and wait for the Germans to win.

Meanwhile in July 1944 Polish Communists formed the Committee of National Liberation, known as the Lublin Committee. It was led by Boleslaw Beirut. On 1 January 1945, the Lublin Committee declared itself the provisional government of Poland. In February 1945 Stalin met Churchill and Roosevelt at Yalta. He promised to allow free elections in Poland. As usual, Stalin had no intention of keeping his promise. The tragedy is that Poland was not liberated after the Second World War. Instead of one type of tyranny, Nazism was replaced by another type of tyranny, Communism.

The provisional government was, of course, a puppet government controlled by Stalin. At the Potsdam Conference in July 1945, the provisional government agreed to the redrawing of Poland’s borders. The western border was moved further west and most of the Germans who lived there were expelled. The eastern border was also moved west and some territory was taken by Russia.

Communist Poland

After World War II Poland was left devastated. As well as the material damage nearly 25% of the population was killed. Furthermore Communism was imposed on the Poles. The Communists took power in stages between 1945 and 1947. At first a provisional government was formed with Communists in key positions – backed by the Soviet army. Elections were finally held in January 1947 but they were carefully rigged. As a result the Communists and Socialists won a landslide victory as the So-called Democratic Bloc.

Then in December 1948 the Socialist Party was purged of its right wing members and the rest were forced to merge with the Communists to form the Polish United Workers Party. A new constitution was introduced in 1952 and Poland became an entirely Communist country.

The Communists nationalized industry but they failed to collectivize Polish agriculture. They also failed to break the power of the Catholic Church.

In June 1956 dissatisfaction with the Communists regime in Poland led to riots in the city of Poznan. The government crushed the riots by force. However the government realized some reform was necessary.

Meanwhile in 1951 Wladyslaw Gomulka the First Secretary of the Party was deposed and imprisoned. In October 1956 he was released and the Polish Communists made him their leader – without consulting Moscow. The Russians were enraged that the Poles had dared to take independent action and they came close to invading Poland. Nevertheless Gomulka failed to carry out any fundamental reforms and Poland stagnated under his rule.

Then on 12 December 1970 the government announced massive food prices. The result was demonstrations and strikes in northern Poland especially in Gdansk. Troops shot and killed many demonstrators, which only made things worse. The demonstrations spread.

On 20 December 1970 Gomulka was forced to resign. He was replaced by Edward Gierek. He froze prices and introduced a new economic plan. Peace returned. Gierek borrowed heavily from the west. As a result living standards in Poland rose. In the early 1970s food became cheaper and consumer goods became common.

However a rise in oil prices ended the economic boom and by 1976 it was clear the loans had been squandered. Polish industry was unable to buy enough hard currency to pay back the loans.

The government introduced huge increases in the price of food. The result was more strikes. This time the government ended the strikes by force. Many strikers were imprisoned. However the Poles began to organize themselves.

In July 1980 the government announced 100% rises in the price of some foods. The result was strikes across Poland. In August 1980 the Lenin shipyards in Gdansk went on strike. Led by an electrician named Lech Walesa the workers occupied the yards. They drew up a list of demands including freedom of the press, the release of political prisoners and the right to form independent trade unions. On 31 August the Communists surrendered. They made the Gdansk agreement and accepted the workers demands.

The workers formed the Solidarity Trade Union, which soon became a mass movement. However the Communists fought back. In December 1981 General Wojciech Jaruzelski imposed martial law on Poland. Solidarity was banned and its leaders were arrested.

Jaruzelski declared a ‘state of war’. However the war between the workers and the Communists continued. The economic crisis continued. Poland’s debts grew larger and larger. Wages did not keep up with price rises. Meanwhile the workers continued to hold strikes and Solidarity went underground.

Eventually, in 1988 the Communists gave in and Jaruzelski called for a ‘courageous turnaround’. In 1989 the Communists and Solidarity held talks. The government agreed to legalize Solidarity and allow freedom of the press. The Communists also agreed that the Sejm (Polish parliament) should be partly democratically elected. The Communists would keep at least 65% of the seats in the lower house but the other 35% would be freely elected. All the seats in the upper house would be freely elected.

The elections were held on 4 June 1989. Solidarity won 35% of the seats of the lower house and 99% of the seats in the upper house. It was a humiliating defeat for the Communists. In August 1989 Tadeusz Mazowiecki became Prime Minister of Poland. The Communist tyranny was over.

A view of Torun in Poland

Modern Poland

In 1990 Lech Walesa was elected President. In October 1991 completely free elections for the Sejm were held. However the new democratic Poland inherited severe economic problems from the Communists. Nevertheless Poland underwent transition from Communism to Capitalism. Industry was privatized and today the Polish economy is growing steadily. Unemployment was high high for a time but it has fallen in recent years. In September 2018 it fell to 5.7%.

In 1997 Poland gained a new constitution. Lech Kaczynski became President of Poland in 2005. Meanwhile Poland joined NATO in 1999 and the EU in 2004.

Poland launched its first satellite, PW-Sat in 2012. Today the population of Poland is 38.5 million.

A timeline of Poland

A brief history of Gdansk

A brief history of Krakow

A brief history of Poznan

A brief history of Torun

A brief history of Warsaw

A brief history of Wroclaw


Last Revised 2019

What Do the Hohenzollerns Deserve?

A bitter public controversy has erupted over Germany’s monarchical past. The critical question is whether the Hohenzollerns had “given substantial support” to the Nazi regime.

The New York Review of Books

  • David Motadel


Adolf Hitler and ‘Crown Prince’ Wilhelm during the Day of Potsdam celebrations, Potsdam, Germany, March 21, 1933. Credit: Georg Pahl / German Federal Archive.

In the early hours of November 10, 1918, Kaiser Wilhelm II, the last German emperor of the Hohenzollern dynasty, fled by train into exile in the Netherlands. The armistice ending World War I was signed the next day. Under the Weimar Constitution of 1919, Germany’s monarchy was abolished; its aristocracy lost its privileges but was allowed to keep much of its property. After World War II, however, the Soviet authorities expropriated the possessions of the former noble families—palaces, manor houses, lands—in their occupation zone of eastern Germany, which was soon to become the German Democratic Republic. Following German reunification in 1990, some of those families sought to reclaim what they had lost. A law passed in 1994 allowed for restitution or compensation claims, though only on condition that the claimants or their ancestors had not “given substantial support” to the National Socialist or East German Communist regimes.

The Hohenzollerns were among those who demanded compensation, as well as the return of tens of thousands of priceless artworks, antiquities, rare books, and furniture now in public museums, galleries, and palaces. Among their requests is the right to reside in one of the Potsdam palaces, preferably the grand 176-room Cecilienhof, which today is a museum. Despite years of negotiations between the German state and the family, their claims remain unresolved. In the summer of 2019, as more and more details about the negotiations in the case were leaked to the German press, a bitter public controversy erupted over Germany’s monarchical past. The critical question is whether the Hohenzollerns had “given substantial support” to the Nazi regime.

To be sure, the dynasty’s history is bleak, tainted by colonial massacres, most notably the Herero and Nama genocide in German Southwest Africa in 1904–1908, as well as by its aggressive warmongering in 1914. After World War I, Wilhelm II made no secret of his deep hatred for the Weimar Republic. In 1919, in a letter to one of his former generals, the exiled emperor, whose anti-Semitism grew more and more virulent during the interwar years, blamed the Jews above all for the fall of the monarchy:

The deepest, most disgusting shame ever perpetrated by a people in history, the Germans have done onto themselves. Egged on and misled by the tribe of Juda whom they hated, who were guests among them! That was their thanks! Let no German ever forget this, nor rest until these parasites have been destroyed and exterminated from German soil! This poisonous mushroom on the German oak-tree!

“Jews and mosquitoes,” he wrote in the summer of 1927, were “a nuisance that humanity must get rid of in some way or other,” adding: “I believe the best would be gas!” After the outbreak of World War II, he enthusiastically celebrated the Wehrmacht’s victories in Poland, Scandinavia, Belgium, Holland, and France. Yet during his years of exile the aging monarch, who died in 1941, shortly before Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union, had little influence on German politics.

More relevant to a resolution of the family’s claims are the actions of the emperor’s eldest son, the self-proclaimed “crown prince” Wilhelm, who was the most senior member of the dynasty in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s and the owner of the Hohenzollern properties at the time of the Soviet expropriation. The facts, known to historians for decades, seem clear: Wilhelm, who was determined to destroy the hated Weimar Republic, backed its right-wing enemies, believing that this would pave the way for the restoration of the monarchy. And he came out in support of Hitler early. In the second round of the presidential elections in the spring of 1932—after having abandoned the idea of running himself—he endorsed Hitler rather than his opponent, the elderly president and former imperial field marshal Paul von Hindenburg, thereby legitimizing the Nazi movement among conservative and royalist segments of German society. Hitler, reportedly “with a smile,” told the British Daily Express, “I value the ex–Crown Prince’s action highly. It was an absolutely spontaneous action on his part, and by it he has publicly placed himself in line with the main body of patriotic German nationalists.”

Wilhelm also helped the Nazis on other occasions. In 1932, for example, he tried to convince Defense Minister Wilhelm Groener to lift the ban on the Nazi paramilitary groups, the SA and SS. And after Hitler was appointed chancellor on January 30, 1933, Wilhelm wasted no time ingratiating himself with Germany’s new leader. In a stream of letters to Hitler, he professed his unconditional loyalty to the regime. In 1934, for the international press, he proudly posed in front of a mirror at Cecilienhof wearing a swastika armband. Most of the other Hohenzollerns, although far less prominent, behaved similarly. Wilhelm’s younger brother August Wilhelm (“Auwi”), a high-ranking SA leader, was a committed Nazi.

One of Wilhelm’s most important services to the regime was his participation in the Day of Potsdam on March 21, 1933, a spectacle staged by the Nazis to present themselves as the heirs to a glorious Prussian past. Representing the Hohenzollern dynasty, Wilhelm, along with three of his brothers, took part in the carefully choreographed proceedings at Potsdam’s Garrison Church. The highlight of the event was a handshake between President von Hindenburg and Hitler. The Day of Potsdam symbolized the pact between the Nazi movement and the old elites, reassuring the sizable conservative parts of the population. It was the regime’s first major propaganda triumph, and it was enabled by the former royal family and its aristocratic allies.

The Hohenzollerns were by no means unrepresentative. Crucial to Hitler’s ascent to power was a coalition between the Nazis and Germany’s old conservative elites, who hoped they could use and control him for their own ends. It was they who arranged Hitler’s appointment as Reich chancellor, plotted in the backrooms of gentlemen’s clubs, in officers’ messes, and at dinners and shooting parties on grand estates. The German historian Karl Dietrich Bracher demonstrated as early as 1955, in his Die Auflösung der Weimarer Republik, that it was their actions that destroyed Weimar democracy, not an inevitable political crisis. “What is more disturbing to our peace of mind,” Hannah Arendt noted around the same time in The Origins of Totalitarianism, “is the unquestionable attraction these movements exert on the elite, and not only on the mob elements in society.” Hitler’s regime was supported by a broad spectrum of right-wing groups, including the royalist right, that were united in their hatred of liberal democracy, communism, and Jews.

The Nazis were initially eager to get backing from the monarchists. It was only after their consolidation of power that they lost interest in the former royal family. When monarchical organizations were banned in 1934, Wilhelm was forced to realize that Hitler would not help him gain more political influence. Nevertheless, the “crown prince” continued to endorse the regime’s policies. During the war, he sent telegrams to Hitler, addressed as “mein Führer,” to congratulate him on his military victories. Given this historical record, it would seem rather difficult to claim that Wilhelm did not lend the Nazis “significant support.”

Yet the current head of the Hohenzollern family, the forty-three-year-old Georg Friedrich Prinz von Preußen, the great-great-grandson of Wilhelm II, does not seem too concerned about his family’s dark past. To support his claims, he engaged Christopher Clark, Regius Professor of History at the University of Cambridge, to write an expert report on the family’s relationship with the Nazis. Clark is the author of the best-selling Kaiser Wilhelm II (2000), which depicted the emperor more sympathetically than most other major academic biographies; Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600–1947 (2006), which broke with the long-prevailing negative view of Prussia as autocratic and militaristic; and The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 (2012), which challenged the view that Germany bore the primary responsibility for the outbreak of World War I. The books have made him a hero to the German conservative right.

In his nineteen-page report, which he wrote in 2011, Clark acknowledges that “Crown Prince” Wilhelm, “a man on the right fringes of the political spectrum,” showed support for Hitler on many occasions, and lists several examples, including his endorsement of Hitler in the 1932 election and his lobbying on behalf of the SA and SS. Yet he comes to the remarkable conclusion that Wilhelm was “one of the politically most reserved and least compromised persons” among the aristocratic Nazi collaborators. Overall, Clark contends that Wilhelm mainly acted out of personal interest, that his maneuvers to help the Nazis were largely unsuccessful, and that he was simply too marginal a figure to have been able to give “significant support” to Hitler. His report provides a clear endorsement of the Hohenzollern claims.

In the meantime, the German state also commissioned two historians to write expert reports: Peter Brandt, a specialist in Prussia and imperial Germany at the University of Hagen (and the son of Germany’s former chancellor Willy Brandt), and Stephan Malinowski, a German historian at the University of Edinburgh, who is the author of the standard work on the relationship between the German aristocracy and the Nazi movement, Vom König zum Führer (2003). Their long and detailed reports provide many more examples of “Crown Prince” Wilhelm’s support of the Nazis. Particularly fascinating are the passages on his radical ideological affinities. In the 1920s, Wilhelm was full of praise for Mussolini, writing in 1928 to his father from Rome that Fascism was “a fabulous institution”: “Socialism, Communism, Democracy and Freemasonry are eradicated, root and branch (!); a brilliant brutality has accomplished this.” Unsurprisingly, Wilhelm was particularly excited by the coexistence of monarchy and nationalist dictatorship in Fascist Italy.

The two reports also leave no doubt about the prince’s deep-seated anti-Semitism. Writing to an American friend in the spring of 1933, he justified the Nazi regime’s anti-Jewish policies, explaining that the German people had built up an “enormous anger” since the 1918 revolution, which, he alleged, had allowed the Jews to take over ministries, hospitals, courts, and universities. It was only now, as “our national circles have gained victory and seized power,” led by “the brilliant Führer Adolf Hitler,” that an “extraordinary reaction” had followed. It was inevitable that “certain cleanup efforts” would have to be made.

Brandt and Malinowski offer overwhelming evidence of Wilhelm’s pro-Nazi activities before and after 1933. They make clear that he was one of the most prominent members of the old imperial elite who put his resources in the service of National Socialism and helped make Hitler respectable among the conservative parts of the population. He welcomed the establishment of the dictatorship and defended its repressions in interviews, conversations, and letters. Both historians also emphasize that Wilhelm was anything but a marginal figure: monarchists had influence on wide segments of society, so his endorsements of the Nazi movement had considerable political impact. Malinowski concludes that there can be no doubt about Wilhelm’s support for the “creation and consolidation of the Nazi regime,” while Brandt summarizes that the prince “contributed steadily and to a considerable extent” to the rise of Hitler. The facts presented in the two reports make Clark’s argument that the “crown prince” was a marginal political figure difficult to sustain.

The Hohenzollerns, however, not prepared to give up, commissioned a fourth historian to provide an opinion: Wolfram Pyta, an eminent scholar at the University of Stuttgart, who has studied the final years of the Weimar Republic and has written a well-received biography of Hindenburg. Pyta’s report argues that Wilhelm did indeed wield significant influence but—and this is the twist—that he tried everything in his power to cleverly sabotage the Nazis and to support the traditional nationalist right. To prove this point, Pyta offers an impressively original (though not very convincing) reinterpretation of historical events: Wilhelm’s plan to run for president in 1932, he claims, was an attempt to stop Hitler. He thereby ignores Wilhelm’s intention to ally with the Nazis and offer Hitler the chancellorship if he were elected president, and that he only abandoned the plan after Hitler gave him the cold shoulder.

Wilhelm’s subsequent endorsement of Hitler’s candidacy is seen by Pyta as a shrewd maneuver to undermine the Nazis, since the “crown prince” believed that, given his own unpopularity among the working class, his public support for the Nazi Party would cost Hitler votes. This claim is both outlandish and entirely unfounded. In a similar way, Pyta explains Wilhelm’s lobbying for the lifting of the ban on the SA and SS as another cunning ploy to harm Hitler, because the reintroduction of the paramilitaries would have bankrupted the party. This, too, seems far-fetched. In fact, when the ban was eventually lifted, there were no major negative financial repercussions. The SA had its own fund-raising activites, including selling uniforms and its own brand of cigarettes; in addition, SA members had to join the Nazi Party, which benefited from collecting their membership fees.

Finally, Pyta claims that Wilhelm was crucially involved in a plan orchestrated by Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher to split the Nazi movement. Indeed, in the winter of 1932–1933, Schleicher unsuccessfully tried to forge an alliance with the wing of the Nazi Party led by Gregor Strasser to form a right-wing government without Hitler. The plan is well known, yet historical studies of the subject say nothing about Wilhelm’s alleged involvement in it, and Pyta presents no solid sources to substantiate his claim. Besides, the consequence of Schleicher’s scheme would still have been the abolition of the Weimar democracy.

Pyta’s conclusion is clear: “Crown Prince Wilhelm did not support the Nazi system.” Assessing his report in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Ulrich Herbert, one of Germany’s leading scholars of Nazi Germany, wrote that the “almost desperate attempt” to portray Wilhelm as a figure who tried to block Hitler was “if anything bizarre rather than convincing.” The distinguished historian Heinrich August Winkler dismissed it in an interview with Die Zeit as a “pure apologia” reminiscent of the reactionary scholarship of the 1950s that tried to exculpate conservatives who helped Hitler to power in 1933. He also sharply criticized Clark’s claim that Wilhelm was one of the politically least compromised of the Nazis’ aristocratic helpers as “contradicted by all historical findings.”

More and more details about the Hohenzollern claims—and the expert reports themselves—have become public in recent months, and the controversy in the German press has grown more and more heated, involving almost every notable historian of modern Germany. Most agree with the reports of Malinowski and Brandt. Norbert Frei, another major expert on Nazi Germany, in an article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, accused the Hohenzollern family of “a brute reinterpretation of history” that “distorts historical facts, blurs responsibilities, and destroys critical historical awareness.” In the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Richard J. Evans, Regius Professor of History Emeritus at Cambridge, criticized his colleagues for not reflecting more carefully before accepting offers to produce expert reports.motadel_2-032620.jpg

The reconstruction of the Berlin Palace, January 2020. The original palace—the Hohenzollerns’ main residence from 1701 to 1918—was damaged in World War II and demolished by the East German government. Its rebuilding after German reunification, David Motadel writes, is the result of ‘a new nostalgia for the country’s royal past and a neo-Prussian revival.’ Credit: Sean Gallup / Getty Images.

There seem to be few serious supporters of the Hohenzollern claims. One of them is Benjamin Hasselhorn, a theologian and historian from Würzburg, who in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung denounced the 1994 law for making “potential property claims dependent on the political views and actions of the ancestors.” (He also wrote that the anti-Semitic statements of Wilhelm II, which he trivialized as “private comments,” had to be contextualized properly.) In the same newspaper, Hans-Christof Kraus, a historian at the University of Passau, repeated Clark’s thesis about Wilhelm’s political insignificance, claiming that after 1918 the Hohenzollerns’ reputation was in tatters.

As the public debate gained momentum last fall, Clark tried to qualify his conclusion in an interview with Der Spiegel: “I stand by what I wrote at the time. But in view of the course that the case has taken, it seems to be more important today to ask about the crown prince’s willingness to collaborate than about his actual influence on events.” He claimed that rather than assessing whether Wilhelm had supported the Nazis, he had assessed whether his support had been of any use to them. At the same time, he doubled down on his insistence that it had not:

The crown prince suffered from overconfidence bordering on the delusional. If one were to list Hitler’s most important supporters, he would not be among the first 300…. Many celebrities crowded around the Nazi leaders, including industrialists, bankers, church leaders and military leaders. Were the photographs featuring the crown prince more important to the regime than others? I doubt that.

It is uncontested that others in the establishment were equally or more implicated—but this does not lessen the significance of the prince’s support.

Anxious to control the public discussion of the case, the Hohenzollerns’ lawyer, Markus Hennig, has issued lawsuits against some of the major German newspapers that have reported on it, including the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Der Spiegel, and Die Zeit. The family has also started an aggressive legal battle against historians who contested their version of history. The first was Malinowski, not because of his expert report but because he made public statements on various details connected with it, such as public access to the family archive and the question of whether the Hohenzollerns intended to manipulate their representation in a planned museum. Other historians facing legal action for expressing opinions on the debate include the Potsdam professors Martin Sabrow and Winfried Süß and the Princeton scholar Karina Urbach. In a recent open letter to Georg Friedrich Prinz von Preußen, Sabrow, the director of the Center for Contemporary History in Potsdam, warned that these actions posed a real “threat to freedom of scholarship.”

Many Germans are bewildered by their former royal family’s demands. “This country does not owe a single coffee cup to the next-born of a luckily long-vanquished undemocratic regime, let alone art treasures or real estate,” wrote Stefan Kuzmany, a columnist for Der Spiegel. “Even the request is an insult to the Republic.” The Hohenzollern wealth, he argued, was the product of historical injustice: “The aristocracy in general, [and] the Hohenzollerns in particular, have always been a plague on the country and the people. Like all so-called noblemen, they have snatched their fortune through the oppression of the population.” As Clark noted in his interview, “There seems to be a strong animus against the nobility within parts of the German public.”

Behind the controversy is the broader question of Germany’s monarchical legacy. After German reunification in 1990, the country’s political identity was renegotiated. Communist East Germany was in ruins, its socialist story shattered. But West Germany’s political narratives also seemed out of date. In this vacuum, older conservative versions of German nationhood began to reemerge. The reunited republic experienced a new nostalgia for the country’s royal past and a neo-Prussian revival. This resulted, for example, in major reconstruction projects, most notably (and controversially) the rebuilding of the Berlin Palace in the capital, the Potsdam City Palace, and the Garrison Church. In a grand ceremony, the remains of Friedrich the Great and his father, the “soldier king” Friedrich Wilhelm I, were solemnly transferred from Hohenzollern Castle in Baden-Württemberg to Potsdam. Books glorifying Prussia suddenly found a wide audience.

All this expressed a longing for a proud German past, no matter how imaginary, and a desire to reorient the republic’s official culture of memory away from the twelve years of Nazi barbarism. Some have observed these developments with concern, fearing the emergence of a new nationalism. As early as 1995, Jürgen Habermas, in his essay “1989 in the Shadow of 1945: On the Normality of a Future Berlin Republic,” powerfully warned that a new emphasis on more positive periods of German history—new “historical punctuations,” as he put it—would diminish the importance of the collapse of civilization in 1933–1945.

The German government had planned to settle the Hohenzollerns’ case through mediation behind closed doors. Unmoved by the heated public debate of the past months, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union—in contrast to its more reluctant Social Democratic coalition partner—seems determined to pursue a conciliatory course toward the former royal family. This became clear during a debate in the German parliament about the case earlier this year, when her party found itself agreeing with the far-right Alternative für Deutschland in supporting mediation. At the official hearing in the parliament’s cultural committee a few days later, on January 29, 2020, positions seemed to have further hardened. Whereas the Social Democrats, Greens, and Left Party called the Potsdam historian Stefanie Middendorf, Brandt, and Malinowski as historical expert witnesses, all of whom underlined once more the Hohenzollern family’s troubling historical record, the conservatives brought in Hasselhorn, who skillfully, though misleadingly, claimed that the case was highly contested among historians and that there was a lack of historical research on “Crown Prince” Wilhelm. It seems that Merkel’s party feels it would lose even more credibility if it were to change its course of the last decade. Another concern is that negotiations might lead to a better deal for the state than an unpredictable and protracted court case. Still, there is a chance that a German court will ultimately have to decide.

Postwar Germany, where the tragedies of the past are omnipresent, has experienced a series of major public historical controversies, among them the debate over Fritz Fischer’s claims in the 1960s that Germany was mainly responsible for the outbreak of World War I, the so-called Historikerstreit in the 1980s about whether the Nazis’ crimes were different in nature from those of the Soviet Union, and the argument in the 1990s over Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s book about the responsibility of ordinary Germans for the Holocaust. These public renegotiations of the past tell us as much about contemporary German society as about history. The Hohenzollern controversy is not only about the long shadows cast by the Nazi period, but also about the place of the monarchical heritage in today’s democratic Germany.

David Motadel is Associate Professor of History at the London School of Economics and Political Science and currently a Fellow at the Berlin Institute for Advanced Study. He is the author of “Islam and Nazi Germany’s War,” which was awarded the Fraenkel Prize.

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A Mr Scott on his precision driving test. This looks like the former parade ground of Victoria Barracks now, Pembroke Park, Old Portsmouth Copyright: Other 3rd Party

15 historic photos of Victoria Barracks before it was demolished

Take a look into the past at this interesting military barracks that was demolished in 1967.

By Deborah CrokerTuesday, 12th May 2020, 4:43 pmUpdated Tuesday, 12th May 2020, 4:43 pm

The barracks were built in 1880 on the edge of Southsea and consisted of a pair of long barrack ranges, linked by arcades at either end to form a narrow quadrangle.

There was a separate Officers’ Quarters and Mess Establishment to the south-west.

The first unit to use the barracks was the 1st Battalion, the South Lancashire Regiment, and a large parade ground was built.

During the Second World War the central tower of the Officers’ Quarters was bombed and seriously damaged. After the war the buildings were used by the navy to train new recruits.

After the barracks were demolished in 1967 the site was redeveloped for homes and is now known as Pembroke Park.

MORE RETRO PHOTOS: Southsea Castle | Clarence Pier and Parade | Eastney Barracks

1. Victoria Barracks

This is a view of Divisions on Victoria Barracks parade ground in 1954. This vista is from the Duchess of Kent Barracks and we see sailors and wrens standing to attention.

Photo: The News archive

Copyright: Other 3rd PartyBuy photo

This is a view of Divisions on Victoria Barracks parade ground in 1954. This vista is from the Duchess of Kent Barracks and we see sailors and wrens standing to attention.

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War Nothing To Celebrate, a Rich Man’s Game. May 24th 2020

An Epic of Salvage: UC-5

UC-5 moored at Sheerness after capture Image Appledene Photographics/Archive

A separate article describes the horrific sinking of the hospital ship Anglia close to English south-coast in 1915. (Click here to read it). She was a victim of a submarine-laid mine, a weapon that was to prove a deadly menace during World War 1. Such mines not only inflicted direct losses it but were also effective in restricting or closing harbour approaches and shipping lanes for long periods once their presence was detected. The German submarine responsible for the Anglia was the small UC-5, a craft specially designed for minelaying. Her operational career was a short one – from late July 1915 until April 1916, a mere nine months – but in this time she was responsible for sinking a total of 29 ships, with a total gross tonnage of 36,288 tons. Few warships have ever been so cost-effective in terms of investment needed to sink a ton of shipping.

Artist’s impression of Anglia’s final plunge, November 17th 1915

The fifteen submarines of the UC class displaced 168 tons on the surface and were a mere 111-feet long. Single-shafted, with a 90-hp diesel, and a 175-hp electric motor, they were slow – 6.5 knots on the surface and 5.5 knots submerged – and this was hardly a disadvantage since it enhanced the stealth with which their operations must be conducted.  With a crew of 15, they carried no torpedoes and their purpose was to drop the twelve 39-inch diameter mines that they carried in six tubes inclined slightly off vertical. Their short range was not a disadvantage when they operated along the British coast from bases in Belgium.

Contemporary cutaway drawing of UC-5.  Note mines in inclined tubes ahead of the conning tower

UC-5 was to be the first of these German vessels to pass safely through the British defences – including minefields – that protected the Dover Straits and to reach the wider waters of the English Channel beyond. It was here that UC-5’s mines were to claim the Anglia as well as many other victims. It was however further north, on the approaches to the British base at Harwich, from which light forces operated in the Southern North Sea, that the UC-5’s luck ran out. The attraction of the area was obvious – twelve mines laid in the approaches to Harwich would have had a high likelihood of claiming a warship victim. The complication was however shallow water offshore – the Shipwash Shoal lay some twelve miles to the north-east of Harwich and it was across this that the UC-5’s commander, Oberleutant Ulrich Mohrbutte intended to make his approach. It was in the course of doing so on April 27th 1916 that the UC-5 grounded as the tide dropped.

Unable to break free, and with a clear possibility of capture, Mohrbutter ordered charts and papers to be destroyed and for scuttling charges to be put in place. He sent a radio signal to the German base at Zeebrugge to give news of his plight and this was picked up by the British. The Royal Navy destroyer Firedrake was accordingly sent to investigate, arriving in early afternoon. As she approached the stranded submarine – her own draught was shallower – the German crew were seen to be standing on the deck and holding up their hands. When Firedrake drew still nearer, the Germans jumped into the water and were soon picked up by boats dropped by the destroyer.

It was thought that the entire German crew had been rescued when one last man was seen emerging from below, shouting and waving his hands frantically, and then jumping overboard. He was picked up and shortly afterwards several explosions racked the stranded submarine, and brown smoke poured from her conning-tower. The scuttling charges had been fired. The craft settled on the shoal beneath but the mines on board – all twelve – did not explode.

UC-5 in British hands, afloat after salvage and repair

Once satisfied that no further explosions were likely, Firedrake’s Torpedo-Lieutenant Quentin Paterson and two other officers went across. Even though damaged, the UC-5 was a valuable prize, the first German U-boat to be captured virtually intact and one that was likely to reveal significant technical information. She was however sufficiently holed to make flotation at high tide and towing to Harwich impossible. Measures were accordingly put in hand to mobilise divers and salvage equipment to recover her. Before these arrived Paterson made a full examination that revealed that though ten of the mines were still secure in their tubes, two had been dropped – as part of the scuttling procedure – and now lay loose at the bottom of the tubes and resting on the sand beneath. The danger was that movement of the submarine’s hull could be enough to detonate them. All salvage efforts had therefore to be delayed until the mines were made safe.

Lieutenant Paterson himself, together with two others, one a diver, undertook this very hazardous work. The ten mines still in the tubes were disarmed by the removal of the acid detonation tubes from the contact horns but it was impossible to do this with the lower mines, which therefore remained active. It was found that the two projecting mines could not be drawn back into the tubes, nor could they be disarmed, so they were secured where they were with cables in such a way as to ensure that they could not drop further. The danger remained however of them being detonated by the hull bumping on the sand when it was time to move it.

UC-5 being transported in sections through Central Park, New York

Responsibility for the salvage was assigned to Commodore Sir Frederic William Young (1859-1927), a naval-reserve officer who in civilian life was the nation’s, and perhaps the world’s, best respected salvage expert. Working now in the open sea, in the middle of a war zone, and with the two unexploded mines a constant danger, the recovery of the UC-5 was to prove one of his greatest challenges. The UC-5 was by now sinking ever deeper into the sand as the tides washed around her. A lighter was brought alongside and the hull was lashed to it at four places with heavy cables – passing these under the hull by water-jetting must have been a terrifying ordeal for the divers who did so. The first attempt at lifting as the tide rose (and as the lighter was deballasted) ended in failure. The cables parted and the hull dropped back on the seabed, luckily without setting off the mines. The process had to start over, this time with yet heavier cables and a larger lighter to which the UC-5’s hull was secured at low water. The lighter’s side tanks nearer the submarine were pumped dry and her outer tanks were filled with water so as to act as a counterweight. This time the UC-5 was raised safely. She was towed into Harwich and placed in a floating dock in which the two projecting mines were safely removed. The entire operation had taken 27 days.

UC-5 in Central Park in 1918 – a focus for sale of War Bonds

The UC-5 was to have a strange afterlife. Examined meticulously to understand her working, she was subsequently patched up and taken to London where she was put on display – an amazing sight since submarines represented cutting-edge technology and the vast majority of the population had never seen one. When the United States entered the war a year later the submarine was cut into sections and sent to New York. She was reassembled in Central Park and there also she became an object of wonder, all the more so since it was outrage at German unrestricted submarine warfare that had drawn the United States into the conflict.

And the heroes of this epic? Paterson was awarded the DSC (Distinguished Service Cross) and his diver the CSM (Conspicuous Gallantry Medal). They were hard earned.

Hong Kong ceded to the British

Protestors, Nov 2019, backed by Britain and U.S set fire to Chinese man in Hong Kong.

During the First Opium War, China cedes the island of Hong Kong to the British with the signing of the Chuenpi Convention, an agreement seeking an end to the first Anglo-Chinese conflict.

In 1839, Britain invaded China to crush opposition to its interference in the country’s economic and political affairs. One of Britain’s first acts of the war was to occupy Hong Kong, a sparsely inhabited island off the coast of southeast China. In 1841, China ceded the island to the British, and in 1842 the Treaty of Nanking was signed, formally ending the First Opium War.

Britain’s new colony flourished as an East-West trading center and as the commercial gateway and distribution center for southern China. In 1898, Britain was granted an additional 99 years of rule over Hong Kong under the Second Convention of Peking. In September 1984, after years of negotiations, the British and the Chinese signed a formal agreement approving the 1997 turnover of the island in exchange for a Chinese pledge to preserve Hong Kong’s capitalist system. 

On July 1, 1997, Hong Kong was peaceably handed over to China in a ceremony attended by numerous Chinese and British dignitaries. The chief executive under the new Hong Kong government, Tung Chee Hwa, formulated a policy based upon the concept of “one country, two systems,” thus preserving Hong Kong’s role as a principal capitalist center in Asia.

Kett’s Rebellion

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Kett’s Rebellion

An 18th-century depiction of Robert Kett and his followers under the Oak of Reformation on Mousehold Heath
Date8 July 1549 – 27 August 1549LocationNorfolkResult Victory for Edwardian forces, rebellion suppressed, execution of rebel commanders
East Anglian rebels  Kingdom of England
Commanders and leaders
Robert Kett Edward VI of England
Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset
John Dudley, 1st Earl of Warwick
William Parr, 1st Marquess of Northampton
~16,000 rebels ~12,000 troops
~1,200 German mercenaries
Casualties and losses
At least 3,000 killed
Unknown wounded
~3,000 deaths

Kett’s Rebellion was a revolt in Norfolk, England during the reign of Edward VI, largely in response to the enclosure of land. It began at Wymondham on 8 July 1549 with a group of rebels destroying fences that had been put up by wealthy landowners. One of their targets was yeoman farmer Robert Kett who, instead of resisting the rebels, agreed to their demands and offered to lead them. Kett and his forces, joined by recruits from Norwich and the surrounding countryside and numbering some 16,000, set up camp on Mousehold Heath to the north-east of the city on 12 July. The rebels stormed Norwich on 29 July and took the city. On 1 August the rebels defeated a Royal Army led by the Marquess of Northampton who had been sent by the government to suppress the uprising. Kett’s rebellion ended on 27 August when the rebels were defeated by an army under the leadership of the Earl of Warwick at the Battle of Dussindale. Kett was captured, held in the Tower of London, tried for treason, and hanged from the walls of Norwich Castle on 7 December 1549.



The 1540s saw a crisis in agriculture in England. With the majority of the population depending on the land, this led to outbreaks of unrest across the country. Kett’s rebellion in Norfolk was the most serious of these. The main grievance of the rioters was enclosure, the fencing of common land by landlords for their own use. Enclosure left peasants with nowhere to graze their animals. Some landowners were forcing tenants off their farms so that they could engross their holdings and convert arable land into pasture for sheep, which had become more profitable as demand for wool increased.[1] Inflation, unemployment, rising rents and declining wages added to the hardships faced by the common people.[2] As the historian Mark Cornwall put it, they “could scarcely doubt that the state had been taken over by a breed of men whose policy was to rob the poor for the benefit of the rich”.[3]

Uprising at Wymondham

Kett’s Rebellion is remembered on Wymondham‘s town sign

Kett’s rebellion, or “the commotion time” as it was also called in Norfolk, began in July 1549 in the small market town of Wymondham, nearly ten miles south-west of Norwich. The previous month there had been a minor disturbance at the nearby town of Attleborough where fences, built by the lord of the manor to enclose common lands, were torn down. The rioters thought they were acting legally, since Edward Seymour (1st Duke of Somerset, and Lord Protector during part of Edward VI‘s minority) had issued a proclamation against illegal enclosures.[4] Wymondham held its annual feast on the weekend of 6 July 1549 and a play in honour of St Thomas Becket, the co-patron of Wymondham Abbey, was performed. This celebration was illegal, as Henry VIII had decreed in 1538 that the name of Thomas Becket should be removed from the church calendar. On the Monday, when the feast was over, a group of people set off to the villages of Morley St. Botolph and Hethersett to tear down hedges and fences. One of their first targets was Sir John Flowerdew, a lawyer and landowner at Hethersett who was unpopular for his role as overseer of the demolition of Wymondham Abbey (part of which was the parish church) during the dissolution of the monasteries and for enclosing land. Flowerdew bribed the rioters to leave his enclosures alone and instead attack those of Robert Kett at Wymondham.[5]

Kett was about 57 years old and was one of the wealthier farmers in Wymondham. The Ketts (also spelt Ket, Cat, Chat, or Knight) had been farming in Norfolk since the twelfth century. Kett was the son of Tom and Margery Kett and had several brothers, and clergyman Francis Kett was his nephew. Two or possibly three of Kett’s brothers were dead by 1549, but his eldest brother William joined him in the rebellion.[6] Kett’s wife, Alice, and several sons are not recorded as having been involved in the rebellion.[7] Kett had been prominent among the parishioners in saving their parish church when Wymondham Abbey was demolished and this had led to conflict with Flowerdew.[8] Having listened to the rioters’ grievances, Kett decided to join their cause and helped them tear down his own fences before taking them back to Hethersett where they destroyed Flowerdew’s enclosures.[9] “By bearing a confident countenance in all his actions, the Vulgars took him (Kett) to be both valiant and wise, and a fit man to be their commander”

Sir John Hayward, Life of King Edward VI[10]

Kett’s Oak, beside the B1172, near Hethersett, Norfolk

The following day, Tuesday 9 July, the protesters set off for Norwich. By now Kett was their leader and they were being joined by people from nearby towns and villages.[11] A local tradition holds that a meeting point for the rebels was an oak tree on the road between Wymondham and Hethersett, where nine of the rebels were later hanged. Known as Kett’s Oak, it has been preserved by Norfolk County Council.[12][13] The oak became a symbol of the rebellion when an oak tree on Mousehold Heath was made the centre of the rebel camp, but this “Oak of Reformation” no longer stands.[14]

Mousehold camp

Kett and his followers camped for the night of 9 July at Bowthorpe, just west of Norwich. Here they were approached by the sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk, Sir Edmund Wyndham, who ordered them to disperse. The response was negative, and the sheriff retreated back to Norwich. Next the rebels were visited by the mayor of Norwich, Thomas Codd, who met a similar response. The following night the rebels camped at nearby Eaton Wood and then, having been refused permission to march through Norwich to reach Mousehold Heath north-east of the city, crossed the River Wensum at Hellesdon and spent the night at Drayton. On Friday 12 July, the rebels reached Mousehold, where they had a vantage point overlooking Norwich, and set up the camp that was their base for the next six and a half weeks.[15] The camp was the largest of several rebel camps that had appeared in East Anglia that summer. The rebels were known at the time as the “camp men” and the rebellion as the “camping tyme” or “commotion tyme”.[16]

An early 19th-century painting of Mousehold Heath by local artist John Crome

Kett set up his headquarters in St Michael’s Chapel, the ruins of which have since been known as Kett’s Castle.[17] Mount Surrey, a house built by the Earl of Surrey on the site of the despoiled St Leonard’s Priory, had lain empty since the Earl’s execution in 1547 and was used to hold Kett’s prisoners. Kett’s council, which consisted of representatives from the Hundreds of Norfolk and one representative from Suffolk met under the Oak of Reformation to administer the camp, issuing warrants to obtain provisions and arms and arrest members of the gentry.[18] According to one source the Oak of Reformation was cut down by Norwich City Council in the 1960s to make way for a car park,[19] although Reg Groves wrote in the 1940s that it had already been destroyed.[20] The camp was joined by workers and artisans from Norwich, and by people from the surrounding towns and villages, until it was larger than Norwich, at that time the second-largest city in England with a population of about 12,000. The city authorities, having sent messengers to London, remained in negotiation with the rebels and Mayor Thomas Codd, former Mayor Thomas Aldrich and preacher Robert Watson accepted the rebels’ invitation to take part in their council.[21]

Wikisource has original text related to this article: Kett’s Demands Being in Rebellion

Once the camp was established at Mousehold the rebels drew up a list of 29 grievances,[22] signed by Kett, Codd, Aldrich and the representatives of the Hundreds, and sent it to Protector Somerset.[23] The grievances have been described by one historian as a shopping-list of demands but which nevertheless have a strong logic underlying them, articulating “a desire to limit the power of the gentry, exclude them from the world of the village, constrain rapid economic change, prevent the overexploitation of communal resources, and remodel the values of the clergy”.[24] Although the rebels were all the while tearing down hedges and filling in ditches, only one of the 29 articles mentioned enclosure: ‘We pray your grace that where it is enacted for enclosing, that it be not hurtful to such as have enclosed saffren grounds, for they be greatly chargeable to them, and that from henceforth no man shall enclose any more.’ The exemption for ‘saffren grounds’ has puzzled historians; one has suggested that it may have been a scribal error for ‘sovereign grounds’, grounds that were the exclusive freehold property of their owners,[25] while others have commented on the importance of saffron to local industry.[26] The rebels also asked ‘that all bondmen may be made free, for God made all free, with his precious blood shedding.’ The rebels may have been articulating a grievance against the 1547 Act for the Punishment of Vagabonds, which made it legal to enslave a discharged servant who did not find a new master within three days, though they may also have been calling for the manumission of the thousands of Englishmen and women who were serfs.[27] (In 1549, an Act Touching on the Punishment of Vagabonds and Other Idle Persons avoided the word “slave” but retained many of the harshest provisions of the 1547 Act.)

The truce between the city and the camp was ended on 21 July by a messenger from the King’s Council, York Herald Bartholomew Butler, who arrived at Norwich from London, went with city officials to Mousehold, proclaimed the gathering a rebellion, and offered pardon. Kett rejected the offer, saying he had no need of a pardon because he had committed no treason. York Herald lacked the forces to arrest the rebels and retreated into Norwich with the Mayor. Kett and his followers were now officially rebels; the authorities therefore shut the city gates and set about preparing the city defences.[28]

Fall of Norwich

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Norwich at the time of Kett’s Rebellion

Kett was now left with a decision. He would not, probably could not, disperse the camp, but without access to the markets of Norwich, his people would starve. It was therefore decided to attack Norwich.

In the late evening of 21 July 1549, rebel artillery positioned on and beneath Mount Surrey, the heights opposite the Bishopsgate bridge, at the top of which now stands a memorial to the rebellion, opened fire. The bombardment and the response from the city’s artillery entrenched next to the bridge and around the Cow Tower lasted through the night.

At first light on 22 July, Kett withdrew his artillery. The city defenders had repositioned six artillery pieces in the meadow behind the hospital (now the cricket ground of Norwich school) and were laying down such an accurate fire that the rebels feared the loss of all their guns. Under a flag of truce the rebels demanded access to the city, which the city authorities refused.

Kett’s artillery, now on the slopes of Mousehold Heath, opened fire on the city. The guns in the hospital meadow could not reach far enough uphill to return the fire. At this point an assault began, ordered by Kett or perhaps by other rebel leaders. Thousands of rebels charged down from Mousehold and began swimming the Wensum between the Cow Tower and Bishops Gate. The city defenders fired volleys of arrows into the rebels as they crossed, but could not stop the attack. A running battle ensued. In the market square the York Herald tried to address the rebels, but as threats were made against him he fled in fear of his life. England’s second largest city was in the hands of a rebel army.[29]

Attacks on the rebels

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The King sent the Marquess of Northampton with 1,500 men, including Italian mercenaries, to quell the rebellion. As he drew near to the city he sent forward his herald to demand the surrender of the city. The Deputy Mayor, Augustine Steward, responded. It was conveyed that the rebels had retreated back to the safety of the high ground overlooking the city. Kett had already seen how difficult it was to defend miles of walls and gates and had instead chosen to withdraw. It was much more prudent to allow Northampton’s tiny army to defend the city while he again laid siege to it.

On the night of 31 July, the Royal army made its defensive preparations and started patrolling the city’s narrow streets. Around midnight alarms rang out, waking Northampton. It appeared hundreds of rebels were using the cover of darkness and their knowledge of the maze of small streets and alleys around Tombland to launch hit-and-run attacks on Royal troops. Lord Sheffield suggested constructing ramparts along the eastern side of the city, which was open to attack, and warned that the rebels were crossing the river around Bishopsgate with ease.

By 8 am the following morning, 1 August, the ramparts were strengthened between the Cow Tower and Bishopsgate, so Sheffield retired to The Maid’s Head inn for breakfast. A little after this, Northampton received information that the rebels wished to discuss surrender and were gathering around the Pockthorpe gate. Sheffield went with the Herald to discuss this apparent good turn of events with the rebels. On arrival, Sheffield found no rebels at all. It appears to have been either a false rumour or a diversion, as at that point thousands of rebels again began crossing the River Wensum around Bishopsgate.

Northampton’s main force was in the market place. As the attack developed, he fed men through the streets into a growing and vicious street battle across the whole eastern area of the city. Seeing things going the rebels’ way, Sheffield took command of a body of cavalry and charged the rebels across the cathedral precinct, past St Martin at Place Church and into Bishopsgate Street. Outside the Great Hospital in Bishopsgate Street, Sheffield fell from his horse into a ditch. Expecting then to be captured and ransomed, as was the custom, he removed his helmet, only to be killed by a blow from a rebel, reputedly a butcher named Fulke.

With the loss of a senior commander and his army being broken up in street fighting, Northampton ordered a retreat. The retreat did not stop until the remnants of the Royal Army reached Cambridge.

The Earl of Warwick led the force that defeated the rebels

The Earl of Warwick was then sent with a stronger army of around 14,000 men including mercenaries from Wales, Germany and Spain. Warwick had previously fought in France, was a former member of the House of Commons and subsequently the Privy Council, making him a strong leader. Despite the increased threat, the rebels were loyal to Kett throughout and continued to fight Warwick’s men.

Northampton served as Warwick’s second-in-command in the second attempt to deal with the rebel host, this time with a much larger force. Warwick managed to enter the city on 24 August by attacking the St Stephen’s and Brazen gates. The rebels retreated through the city, setting fire to houses as they went in an attempt to slow the Royal army’s advance. About 3 pm Warwick’s baggage train entered the city. It managed to get lost and rather than halting in the market place it continued through Tombland and straight down Bishopsgate Street towards the rebel army. A group of rebels saw the train from Mousehold and ran down into the city to capture it. Captain Drury led his men in an attempt to recapture the train, which included all the artillery. He managed to salvage some of the guns in yet another fierce fight around Bishopsgate.

At 10 pm that same night shouts of “fire” started. The rebels had entered the city and were burning it. Warwick was in the same trap as Northampton had been, surrounded inside a city in danger of being burnt to the ground.

At first light on 25 August the rebels changed tactics. Their artillery broke down the walls around the northern area of the city near the Magdalen and Pockthorpe gates. With the north of the city again in rebel hands, Warwick launched an attack. Bitter street fighting eventually cleared the city once again. The rebels bombarded the city throughout the day and night.

On 26 August, 1,500 foreign mercenaries arrived in the city. These were German “landsknechts“, a mix of handgunners and pikemen. With these reinforcements and the townsfolk, Warwick now had an army so formidable it could no longer hide within the city. Kett and his people were aware of this, and that night they left their camp at Mousehold for lower ground in preparation for battle.

During the morning of 27 August, the armies faced each other outside the city. The final battle took place at Dussindale, and was a disaster for the rebels. In the open, against well-armed and trained troops, thousands were killed and the rest ran for their lives.

The location of Dussindale has never been established. The most popular theory is that the dale began in the vicinity of the Plumstead Road East allotments that swept into Valley Drive and into the present remnant of Mousehold, into the Long Valley and out into what is now Gertrude Road and the allotments. In Victorian times this area was known as ‘Ketts Meadow’. The name Dussindale has been given to a recent housing development in nearby Thorpe St Andrew.


About 3,000 rebels are thought to have been killed at Dussindale, with Warwick’s army losing some 250 men.[30] The morning after the battle, 28 August, rebels were hanged at the Oak of Reformation and outside the Magdalen Gate. Estimates of the number vary from 30 to 300. Warwick had already executed 49 rebels when he had entered Norwich a few days before.[31] There is only one attested incident in which the rebels had killed in cold blood: one of Northampton’s Italian mercenaries had been hanged following his capture.[32]

Kett was captured at the village of Swannington the night after the battle and taken, together with his brother William, to the Tower of London to await trial for treason. Found guilty, the brothers were returned to Norwich at the beginning of December. Kett was hanged from the walls of Norwich Castle on 7 December 1549; on the same day William was hanged from the west tower of Wymondham Abbey.


“In 1549 AD Robert Kett yeoman farmer of Wymondham was executed by hanging in this Castle after the defeat of the Norfolk Rebellion of which he was leader. In 1949 AD – four hundred years later – this Memorial was placed here by the citizens of Norwich in reparation and honour to a notable and courageous leader in the long struggle of the common people of England to escape from a servile life into the freedom of just conditions”

Plaque on the wall of Norwich Castle

In 1550, the Norwich authorities decreed that in future 27 August should be a holiday to commemorate “the deliverance of the city” from Kett’s Rebellion, and paid for lectures in the cathedral and parish churches on the sins of rebellion.[33] This tradition continued for over a century.

The rising was discussed by Sir John Cheke in The hurt of sedicion howe greueous it is to a commune welth, (1549).[34] The only known surviving eye-witness account of the rebellion, a manuscript by Nicholas Sotherton, son of a Norwich mayor, is hostile towards the rebels. So too is Alexander Neville’s 1575 Latin history of the rebellion, De furoribus Norfolciensium. Neville was secretary to Matthew Parker, who had preached to Kett’s followers under the Oak of Reformation on Mousehold, unsuccessfully appealing to them to disperse.[35] In 1615 Neville’s work was translated into English by Norfolk clergyman Richard Woods under the title Norfolke Furies and was reprinted throughout the following century. Francis Blomefield‘s detailed account in his History of Norwich (published in parts during 1741 and 1742) was based on Neville but supplemented with material from other sources such as the works of Raphael Holinshed, Peter Heylin and Thomas Fuller, together with various local records. ‘Blomefield allowed himself sufficient impartiality to be able to set out, without comment, the grievances of those taking part, but heaped abuse on them for going further than their original intentions’.[36]

It was only in the 19th century that more sympathetic portrayals of the rebellion appeared in print and started the process that saw Kett transformed from traitor to folk hero. An anonymous work of 1843 was critical of Neville’s account of the rebellion, and in 1859 clergyman Frederic Russell, who had unearthed new material in archives for his account of the rebellion, concluded that “though Kett is commonly considered a rebel, yet the cause he advocated is so just, that one cannot but feel he deserved a better name and a better fate”.[37]

Robert Kett’s death is commemorated in 2011

In 1948, Alderman Fred Henderson, a former mayor of Norwich who had been imprisoned in the Castle for his part in the food riots of 1885, proposed a memorial to Kett. Originally hoping for a statue, he settled for a plaque on the walls of Norwich Castle engraved with his words and unveiled in 1949, 400 years after the rebellion.[38] In the 21st century the death of Kett is still remembered by the people of Norwich. On 7 December 2011, the anniversary of his death, a memorial march by members of Norwich Occupy and Norwich Green Party took place and a wreath was laid by the gates of Norwich Castle.[39]

Kett’s Oak or the Oak of Reformation on Kett House, an office block in Station Road, Cambridge; Willi Soukop, sculptor

After the rebellion the lands of Kett and his brother William were forfeited, although some of them were later restored to one of his sons. In the longer term the Kett family do not seem to have suffered from their association with the rebellion, but to have prospered in various parts of Norfolk.[40] George Kett, a descendant of Kett’s younger brother Thomas, moved to Cambridge and co-founded the architectural masonry company of Rattee and Kett. George Kett’s son, also George, was mayor of Cambridge on three occasions and compiled a genealogy of the Kett family.[41]

The rebellion is remembered in the names of schools, streets, pubs and a walking route in the Norwich and Wymondham area, including the Robert Kett Junior School in Wymondham, Dussindale Primary School in Norwich, the Robert Kett pub in Wymondham, Kett House residence at the University of East Anglia, and Kett’s Tavern in Norwich,[42] and in a folk band, Lewis Garland and Kett’s Rebellion, and a beer, Kett’s Rebellion, by Woodforde’s Brewery in Norwich.

Kett’s rebellion has featured in novels, including Frederick H. Moore’s Mistress Haselwode: A tale of the Reformation Oak (1876), F.C. Tansley’s For Kett and Countryside (1910), Jack Lindsay‘s The Great Oak (1949), Sylvia Haymon’s children’s story The Loyal Traitor (1965), Margaret Callow’s A Rebellious Oak (2012), and C.J. Sansom‘s Tombland (2018); plays, including George Colman Green’s Kett the tanner (1909); and poetry, including Keith Chandler’s collection Kett’s Rebellion and Other Poems (1982). In 1988 British composer Malcolm Arnold produced the Robert Kett Overture (Opus 141), inspired by the rebellion.

Notes and references

Cornwall 1977, 11 Cornwall 1977, 19–20 Cornwall 1977, 23 Beer 1982, 82–83 Land 1977, 42 Land 1977, 23–4, 43 Land 1977, 145–9. Alice Kett has been tentatively identified as the daughter of Sir Nicholas Appleyard, making Kett uncle by marriage to two of the men he took prisoner during the rebellion, and to Flowerdew’s daughter-in-law. Alice Kett’s brother’s widow married Sir John Robsart and was the mother of Amy Robsart. Land 1977, 22–23 Land 1977, 43 Quoted in Clayton 1912, 48 Land 1977, 44 “Kett’s Oak”. Norfolk Heritage Explorer. Norfolk County Council. Pictures of Kett’s Oak through the ages on Hethersett village website Land 1977, 44,60 Land 1977, 42–47 Wood 2002, 62–63 Groves 1947, 31 Wood 2002, 64 Wyler 2009, 16 Groves 1947, 109 (“an old map of Mousehold shows that it stood where the Water Tower now stands near the junction of Primrose Road and Telegraph Lane”) Groves 1947, 34 Russell 1859, 48–56 (the 29 articles with explanatory notes) Dunning, Andrew. “‘Kett’s Demands Being in Rebellion'”. Medieval Manuscripts Blog. The British Library. Retrieved 20 November 2016. Wood 2002, 66 MacCulloch 1979 Land 1977, 68 Diarmaid MacCulloch ,”Bondmen under the Tudor”, Law and Government under the Tudors: Essays Presented to Sir Geoffrey Elton, ed. Claire Cross et al. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 91–93. Land 1977, 78–9 [1] Land 1977, 123 Land 1977, 124–5 Land 1977, 94 Wood 2007, 228 John Cheke, The hurt of sedicion howe greueous it is to a commune welth, (London: Iohn Daye and Wylliam Seres, 1549), ESTC S107791. Land 1977, 75 David Stoker, ‘Francis Blomefield as a historian of Norwich’, Norfolk Archaeology, LIV (2005). 387-405, 393. Russell 1859, quoted in Wood 2007, 260 Wood 2007, 262–4 “A New Economic Story – The Courageous State”. Green Party (UK). 2 December 2011. Archived from the original on 24 December 2012. Retrieved 15 January 2012. Land 1977, 144–5 A photograph of George Kett, Mayor of Cambridge, on Cambridge City Council website

  1. M. Pentelow and P. Arkell, People’s Pubs: Robert Kett Archived 5 December 2010 at the Wayback Machine, RMT News, July/August 2010, 36


  • Beer, B.L. 1982 Rebellion and Riot: popular disorder in England during the reign of Edward VI. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press
  • Clayton, J. 1912 Robert Kett and the Norfolk Rising. London: Martin Secker
  • Cornwall, J. 1977 Revolt of the Peasantry 1549. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul
  • Groves, R. 1947 Rebel’s Oak: the story of the great rebellion of 1549. London: Red Flag Fellowship
  • Land, Stephen K. (1977). Kett’s rebellion: The Norfolk rising of 1549. Ipswich: Boydell Press. ISBN 978-0-85115-084-0.
  • MacCulloch, Diarmaid (8 January 1979). “Kett’s Rebellion in Context”. Past & Present. 84 (1): 36–59. doi:10.1093/past/84.1.36. ISSN 0031-2746. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  • Russell, Frederic William (1859). Kett’s rebellion in Norfolk. London: Longmans, Brown, Green, Longmans and Roberts. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  • Wood, Andy (2002). Riot, rebellion and popular politics in early modern England. Social history in perspective. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave. ISBN 978-0-333-63761-6.
  • Wood, Andy (2007). The 1549 rebellions and the making of early modern England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-83206-9.
  • Wyler, S. 2009 A history of community asset ownership. London: Development Trusts Association

External links

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How Bashar al-Assad Became So Hated Posted April 26th 2020

The Western-educated ophthalmologist was never intended to be the Assad brother in charge. Did his inept policies contribute to the civil war?

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad speaks at the Opera House in Damascus on January 6, 2013. (Reuters)

The current president of Syria never aspired to be involved in politics. His brother Bassel Al-Assad was being groomed to become his father’s successor. His name summoned images of a vocal, shrewd, dynamic man who was a parachutist, a ladies’ man, an accomplished athlete, and an outgoing statesman. Bassel al-Assad was very popular and idolized by the Syrian youth. Everyone was certain that he would be the next president of Syria, after his father Hafez al-Assad, the founder of the current regime.

Compared to Bassel, his brother Bashar was not as charismatic or appealing. When I was a student in high school, I would walk the busy streets of Damascus, Aleppo, or Latakia and find the walls and windows of shops and buildings papered with posters and photographs of Bassel. His images were even plastered across cars, but there was not a trace of Bashar’s presence.

Bashar did not seek out recognition or popularity. He had no interest in being in the middle of politics, as his brother did. In his school days, he was perceived by the Syrian society as a shy, reserved, weak, hesitant child who did not inherit any of his father’s or brother’s intelligence and leadership. Regardless of the assumptions of the entire country, soon the invisible hand of history would sweep away these perceptions prove everyone wrong.

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Unlike his dynamic brother, the people of Syria viewed Bashar as a nerd, not someone with the instincts or the drive to lead a country. “He’s certainly not a leader,” my cousin, who was later killed in the recent uprising, and his friends would say of Bashar. Even a sympathizer with the regime, an Alawite named Abu Hisham, would say, “Bashar can not stand against powers such as Israel and the United States. We need a leader who is strong like Bassel.”

Even Bashar’s physical appearance — his thin frame — gave him an image of frailness. Nor did Bashar seem interested in projecting leadership; he was looking for a normal, peaceful, luxurious life somewhere in Europe with a prospective wife.

Bassel was following in the footsteps of his father, though he was a little wilder than his father had ever been. Bashar’s sister Bushra was confident and influential in the country. Bashar was viewed as the “momma’s boy,” and was often seen as a bit of a joke, according to Jean-Marie Quemener , a journalist who has written about Assad . (Even during the recent uprising, people would lampoon him in a satirical web series where he is labeled as “Beesho,” or “baby Bashar.”)

However, while the entire country focused on his alluring older brother, Bashar was educating himself. He learned to be fluent in French at the Arab-French Al Hurriya School in Damascus and graduated from high school the same year of the Hama massacre, during which an estimated 10,000 to 25,000 people were killed by his father. Bashar had a love for medicine, and he continued his education at the University of Damascus. As dedicated as he was to his country, he was always more attracted to the Western style of life than his father and siblings, so after finishing his residency in ophthalmology at the Tishreen military hospital outside of Damascus, Bashar then traveled to England in 1992 to study at the Western Eye Hospital.

At the same time, his father was grooming Bassel to become the future president and vivacious leader that the country expected him to be. Bashar was savoring a comfortable life in a luxurious home and continuing on as a deeply devoted medical student. He appeared to adore the anonymity that London offered him.

Bashar’s years living in London made his attraction to the Western style of living to grow even stronger. His later speeches would indicate that he always wondered why Syria had not evolved in a similar way, and that he wished his country was more modernized.

Then one day in 1994, Bashar received the phone call that would alter his life forever. His brother Bassel had died in a car accident. Since that day many have questioned why Bashar’s calculative father chose his quiet, subdued son to take his place, rather than Bashar’s other brother Maher, who was much more similar to Bassel.

I remember when the images and posters of Bassel started to be replaced by that of Bashar in the streets of Damascus. His father, although sick, tried hard to market his son as the symbol of “hope.” For almost two years after Bassel’s death, Bashar was not in the public eye. He was being trained in military and political affairs.

After two years, Bashar was transformed. Even his low, soft, child-like voice seemed to be tougher, and his stance became more confident and powerful. But many Syrian people would say that though Bashar changed on the surface, he had not changed on the inside. They believe he was still an anxious man with vacillating moods, just as he was when he was a child. Despite these misgivings, Bashar is considered the most articulate Arab leader; he is the only one who speaks Fusha (formal) Arabic most of the time.

When he assumed power, the lifestyle the West still occupied Assad’s mind — In his inaugural speech he emphasized that it was time to begin modernizing Syria. But to modernize Syria and remake it in the “image” he desired, he needed to adopt neo-liberal and capitalist policies, both of which stirred up a strong resistance from his father’s old guard, who founded the socialist and secular Ba’ath Party. Not knowing the long-term consequences of marrying neoliberalism with the authoritarian structure, Bashar gained short-term benefits with his vast changes, but he also planted the seed of revolution.

In the beginning of his rule, he introduced the Damascus Spring, which included some political reforms that would suit the economic changes he planned. But when he saw that the reaction to his political shake-up was endangering his own throne, he retreated to old policies of mass repression, relying on Mukhabarat, the secret security police, to enforce his commands.

Internal clashes and tensions between Bashar and his father’s old guard were inevitable. Men such as Ali Duba (former head of the Syrian military intelligence and a close adviser to the Syrian president Hafez al-Assad) as well as hardliners such as his brother Maher al-Assad (commander of the Republican Guard and the army’s elite Fourth Armored Division), held such opposing views to that of their new leader that chaos was certain to occur.

During his early rule, Bashar became aware of the discontent and used his power to retire some of the old guard, sweeping them from power to reduce the conflict he faced.

The gradual increase of neo-liberal policies and privatization exaggerated the inequality between the poor and the rich, which was especially felt in middle-class areas, and mid-sized and large cities. While a small portion of the crony capitalists and loyalists to Assad were able to benefit from these policies, the vast majority of the population was disenfranchised. The uprising in the Arab world (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya) in 2011 also sparked the revolution against Bashar, who was still perceived as an inept leader.

Unable to control the uprising, the old guard members who had been forced to retire, surged back to power to address the situation. During the uprising, some Alawite people started chanting “Bashar lal iyada wa Maher lal ghiyada,” meaning, Bashar should go back to the clinic and Maher should become the leader. Did Bashar’s mama’s boy image contribute to emboldening the people to come to streets? Did Bashar’s idealistic vision of creating a “Switzerland” Syria — but still consolidating power at the top — play a role in the uprising? Did his vast and sudden economic and neo-liberal reforms, which in the end only benefited his gilded circle, have an impact on the current civil war? Perhaps the combination of all of these factors led to the rampant rebellion and mistrust of the people that Bashar had been chosen to lead.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-Syrian scholar, is the president of the International American Council on the Middle East. 

Washington-With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Mar 7, 2019 Joe Archino


Washington was inaugurated as the First President of the United States on April 30, 1789.

Henry “Light Horse” Harry Lee famously eulogized George Washington as, “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” As Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, president of the Constitutional Convention, and the First President of the United States, Washington dedicated the prime of his life to serving America and he rightfully holds the informal title, “Father of His Country.”

Guided by his devotion to duty, unbreakable conviction, faith, sense of responsibility, and his commitment to leading by example, Washington lived a life of honor that every American should strive to learn from.

1. Duty to Country Always Comes First

Mount Vernon was not just the place George Washington called home. For the Virginia farmer, landowner, and businessman, it was also his paradise. Washington was happiest when managing the responsibilities of his vast plantation, but when duty called, he always answered.

Mount Vernon seen from the Potomac River. Photo: baldeaglebluff / CC BY-SA 2.0
Mount Vernon seen from the Potomac River. Photo: baldeaglebluff / CC BY-SA 2.0

In June 1775, the Second Continental Congress formally established a standing army and appointed George Washington as the Commander-in-Chief. After taking command, Washington did not return to Mount Vernon until the war brought him back to Virginia in autumn 1781, giving him the chance to visit his beloved home for the first time in six years and four months.

Washington was rarely away from his men during the conflict and faithfully led the Continental Army for eight years until victory was finally achieved in 1783.

George Washington by Peale 1776.
George Washington by Peale 1776.

Having done everything in his power to secure American independence, Washington decided to retire “from all public employments” after the war. He found true peace back at Mount Vernon and was happy to “move gently down the stream of life until I sleep with my fathers.” Washington’s joyful retirement was interrupted in 1787 when his country called on him again.

The dutiful patriot traveled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to attend the Constitutional Convention and was unanimously elected its president. Washington’s steady leadership was instrumental and the Convention ultimately crafted the United States Constitution. The new Constitution called for a single executive, and no one doubted who that executive would be.

After the Electoral College unanimously elected him, Washington was inaugurated as the First President of the United States on April 30, 1789. He was eager to retire after his first term, but Washington’s closest friends and advisors implored him not to, warning that the troubles facing the young nation might lead to division and chaos.

Inauguration of George Washington as first president 1789
Inauguration of George Washington as first president 1789

As Washington’s Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson told him, “North and South will hang together if they have you to hang on.” Washington accepted that his country still needed him and was unanimously elected to a second term in 1793. After serving eight years in office, Washington finally returned to Mount Vernon in 1797.

In 1798, war between the United States and France seemed very likely. President John Adams appointed the nation’s most famous soldier to lead the American military effort in the event of a French invasion. Washington agreed to serve and even traveled to Philadelphia to undertake preparations for the new army. Although war was ultimately avoided, Washington once again proved that whenever his country needed him, he would abandon the comfort of his home and be there for her.

Washington spent his final days at Mount Vernon before passing away of a throat infection on December 14, 1799 at the age of 67.

Portrait of George Washington
Portrait of George Washington

Although Washington loved his home and working on his plantation more than anything, he understood that a man must never shy away from his primary duty and dedicated 17 years of his life to serving his country during the Revolutionary War, the Constitutional Convention, and the Presidency, establishing precedents and laying the groundwork for the United States to become a beacon of freedom.

George Washington’s life is a reminder that duty to country always comes first.

2. Never Give Up

George Washington considered the American triumph in the Revolutionary war “little short of a standing miracle.” From 1775 to 1783, Washington led an army that was ill-clad, poorly supplied, rarely if ever paid, and constantly plagued by scores of other issues against the world’s premier war machine of its day.

There were times during the war when all seemed lost, but no matter how many setbacks his army encountered, Washington refused to give up. His courage was never in doubt; he constantly stood by his men, and he fearlessly stared down every danger.

General Washington leading the Continental Army to Valley Forge in 1777.
General Washington leading the Continental Army to Valley Forge in 1777.

This iconic painting by William Trego was inspired by a passage from Washington Irving’s Life of George Washington: “Sad and dreary was the march to Valley Forge, uncheered by the recollection of any recent triumph. . . Hungry and cold were the poor fellows who had so long been keeping the field . . . provisions were scant, clothing was worn out, and so badly were they off for shoes, that the footsteps of many might be tracked in blood.”

As the Commander-in-Chief once reminded his soldiers, “The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army.” Washington never forgot what was at stake in the Revolutionary War and his devotion to the cause and to his soldiers ultimately paid off. As Washington believed, “Perseverance and spirit have done wonders in all ages.” General Washington witnessed those wonders firsthand by exhibiting an unbreakable spirit and persevering to secure America’s ultimate victory over Great Britain.

George Washington never gave up, and regardless of the obstacles that stand in our way, neither should we.

3. Remember that God is Always With You

The Prayer at Valley Forge, engraved by John C. McRae. (Photo: Library of Congress)
The Prayer at Valley Forge, engraved by John C. McRae. (Photo: Library of Congress)

George Washington understood the miraculousness of America’s victory in the Revolutionary War better than anyone, and while the Commander-in-Chief did everything in his power to secure his nation’s independence, he always believed that the triumph would not have been possible without God watching over him and his army. Often using the word “Providence” to refer to God, Washington expressed this belief on many occasions:

“If such talents as I possess have been called into action by great events, and those events have terminated happily for our country, the glory should be ascribed to the manifest interposition of an overruling Providence.”

“I was but the humble Agent of favouring Heaven, whose benign interference was so often manifested in our behalf, and to whom the praise of victory alone is due.”

“The kind interposition of Providence which has been so often manifested in the affairs of this country, must naturally lead us to look up to that divine source for light and direction in this new and untried Scene.”

As we go through life, we too must always remember that no matter what we are going through, God will always be with us.

4. With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

In a world run by kings, George Washington would not wear a crown. He wielded tremendous power as a general and president, but Washington was intensely aware of the great trust his fellow Americans placed in him and he never abused the power he was entrusted with.

Washington received a letter during the Revolution that slightly suggested he should assume the title of American Monarch. The seriousness of Washington’s response said everything about his character and integrity: “No occurrence in the course of the war has given me more painful sensations than your information of there being such ideas existing in the army…. I must view with abhorrence and reprehend with severity” any idea that was “big with the greatest mischiefs that can befall my country.” Washington was truly incorruptible.

Perhaps the greatest act that demonstrated Washington’s understanding of power and responsibility came when he surrendered his military commission to congress on December 23, 1783.

As he stood before the gathered congressmen in the statehouse at Annapolis, Maryland, the Commander-in-Chief declared, “Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of Action-and bidding an Affectionate farewell to this August body under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my Commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.”

By surrendering his military commission to a grateful Congress, Washington affirmed a principle he firmly believed in: civilian control of the military.

General George Washington Resigning His Commission by John Trumbull.
General George Washington Resigning His Commission by John Trumbull.

As history around the world has shown, some revolutionary leaders in Washington’s position might have attempted to seize political power. In fact, Washington had been forced to put down a potential coup d’état in March 1783 when disgruntled army officers threated to overthrow the civilian government over its failure to pay their salaries or pensions.

Upon hearing that Washington intended to peacefully surrender his commission and return home, Great Britain’s King George III reportedly said, “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.” Washington did, and during his time on this earth, he demonstrated how a true leader uses power responsibly.

Like Washington, we must also understand that with great power comes great responsibility.

5. Set an Example

A portrait of President George Washington by Gilbert Stuart.
A portrait of President George Washington by Gilbert Stuart.

In everything that he did, George Washington always set an example for others to follow. Regarding his position as the First President of the United States, Washington wrote, “I walk on untrodden ground. There is scarcely any part of my conduct which may not hereafter be drawn into precedent.”

Washington understood that in a world where royalty reigned supreme, it was up to him to prove that the republican model of government could succeed. One of the most important ways of doing that was to ensure the peaceful transition of power from one president to the next. During Washington’s time there were no term limits, and while many would have supported him in office until the day he died, Washington knew that he had to establish a precedent for others to follow.

Read another story from us: Outsmarted and Outflanked – Washington’s Defeat at Long Island

Hence, at the end of his second term, Washington stepped down as president, setting an example that lasted until President Franklin D. Roosevelt won a third term in 1940, and ensuring that succession would be determined by the ballot box. Today, the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ensures that no person can be elected to the office of the President more than twice.

There will be people in our own lives who look up to us for guidance, and like Washington, we must also understand the importance of setting an example for those individuals to follow.

The Airman Who Fell 18,000 Feet Without A Parachute & Lived

Mar 7, 2019 Jay Hemmings


Faced with a terrible choice – that of burning to death, or falling to his death, Alkemade chose the latter option.

Aerial combat, like naval combat, has many risks attached to it, many of which arise from the fact that the human beings involved in such battles are far removed from their natural element: land.

Whether a few thousand miles out to sea, or a few thousand feet up in the air, when you’re fighting so far out of your natural element, you risk death not only from your enemy’s weaponry but also from the inherent danger of falling from the skies or into the unforgiving ocean.

While we have invented means to mitigate these dangers, such as lifeboats and parachutes, if these last resorts fail death is usually a certainty.

Indeed, plummeting to the earth without a parachute from 18,000 feet in the air is pretty much guaranteed to end only one way for the unfortunate person involved – but, as history has often taught us there are always exceptions to the rules, and one man who miraculously survived a parachute-less jump from his burning airplane was World War II RAF airman Nicholas Alkemade.

Nicholas Alkemade was born in 1922 in Norfolk, England, and was a gardener before signing up with the Royal Air Force when WWII broke out. He was trained as an air gunner, and after completing his training he served as a tail gunner with RAF 115 Squadron.

Crew members inspect the tail of a 115 Squadron Bomber.
Crew members inspect the tail of a 115 Squadron Bomber.

Alkemade was part of a crew that flew an Avro Lancaster MK II bomber, which was capable of carrying the largest bombs used by the RAF during the Second World War. These bombers often flew night missions, and, as such, the bomber that Alkemade’s crew manned was christened Werewolf.

Alkemade flew fourteen successful missions with the crew of Werewolf, and on the night of 24 March 1944 they were part of a bombing raid targeting Berlin. They successfully delivered their payload, but on the return journey heavy winds took them off course. They ended up flying over the Ruhr region, which had a high concentration of anti-aircraft defenses.

Avro Lancaster B Mk II
Avro Lancaster B Mk II

Werewolf was attacked from below by a German night-fighter aircraft, and the resulting damage tore up Werewolf’s wing and fuselage, and set the plane on fire. It was obvious that Werewolf was beyond salvation, and the pilot ordered the crew to grab their parachutes in preparation for an emergency exit from the burning aircraft.

Alkemade, alone in his turret at the back of the plane, was already being scorched by the flames, with his rubber oxygen mask beginning to melt on his face, and his arms seared by the fire. Scrambling for his parachute in a panic, he was hit with a moment of pure dread when he finally located it – for his parachute, like everything else around him, was on fire.

Avro Lancaster B I PA474
Avro Lancaster B I PA474

Faced with a terrible choice – that of burning to death, or falling to his death, Alkemade chose the latter option. Better to suffer the brief terror of the fall and have a swift, merciful end than suffer through the torment of fire. He jumped from the burning plane without his parachute, and, falling at almost 120mph and looking up at the starry sky and the burning airplane from which he had just jumped, he lost consciousness.

Amazingly he woke up three hours later, lying in deep snow in a pine forest. It seemed that the flexible young pines had slowed his descent enough that the snow was able to cushion his fall. He had not broken any bones, but had managed to sprain his knee after his 18,000 foot fall from the sky. In addition, he had suffered burn wounds from the fire and had pieces of perspex from his flak-shattered screen embedded in his skin.

Lancaster pilot at the controls, left, flight engineer at right
Lancaster pilot at the controls, left, flight engineer at right

While he had survived the fall, surviving the rest of the night was not a guarantee. His knee was in too much pain for him to walk, and the freezing cold was beginning to take its toll.

He began blowing his distress whistle, which eventually attracted the attention of some German civilians. He was taken to Meschede Hospital where his wounds were treated, and when he was well enough to talk, he was interrogated by the Gestapo.

He told them his story, but they refused to believe that he could have survived such a fall without a parachute. They insisted that he had buried his parachute somewhere and that he was a spy – but when they sent men to investigate the landing site, as well as the wreckage of Werewolf, they were amazed to find that the remains of Alkemade’s parachute were indeed still in the wreckage of the plane.

A model of one compound of the huge Stalag Luft III Photo by Wikigraphists CC BY SA 3.0
A model of one compound of the huge Stalag Luft III Photo by Wikigraphists CC BY SA 3.0

Alkemade then became something of a celebrity, and met a number of Luftwaffe officers who wanted to hear about his miraculous jump. However, this did not earn him any special treatment, and like any other captured Allied airman he was sent to the notorious prison camp Stalag Luft III.

Read another story from us: Revealing the Ineffectiveness of Early British Night-Bombing Raids

Alkemade’s luck remained with him, though. When the camp’s 10,000 inmates were forced to trek hundreds of miles across northern Germany, through a blizzard, with temperatures dropping as low as -22 degrees C, he survived and was eventually liberated.

After the war Alkemade worked in the chemical industry in the UK, and lived to the age of 64. He passed away in June 1987.


Mystery death of key MP witness in Diana’s ‘murder’ Posted September 21st 2019

POLICE probing a possible SAS link to Princess Diana’s death are being thwarted because of the mysterious death of a top UK politician.

ByRichard Spillett

  • 07:10, 20 SEP 2013
  • Updated12:03, 7 MAY 2015
Princess Diana’s ‘murder’ probe has been thwarted [EPA]

Robin Cook, who was Foreign Secretary when Diana died, would have had the ultimate say about any plan to kill her.

So detectives leading the new Scotland Yard inquiry into the Princess’s death would have been anxious to question him.

But the apparently fit and healthy Mr Cook died in 2005 while walking on a remote Scottish mountainside.

A helicopter took 30 minutes to get to the scene after he tumbled just 8ft down a ridge.

Mr Cook’s wife, Gaynor, did not get in the helicopter and was instead left to walk down the mountain.

By the time she got to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, her husband had already been pronounced dead. A heart attack was blamed. He was 59.

Mr Cook died a year before the conclusion of Operation Paget, the Met’s official inquiry into Diana’s death, and two years before the official inquest.

His death had a huge effect on efforts by French authorities to get to the bottom of Diana’s car crash horror in central Paris in 1997.

A senior French judicial source said: “It would have been important for us to question Mr Cook about these dramatic developments.

“If the accusation is that he was the man who may have sanctioned an attack, then of course his answers would be crucial. So many lines of inquiry led to him and his office.”

Former head of MI6 Sir Richard Dearlove testified on oath at the Diana inquest in 2007 that Mr Cook would have been required to issue a “Class Seven Authorisation”.

This would have unleashed an armed unit with a “licence to kill”, in the kind of plot a former SAS soldier has said was played out in the Alma Tunnel.

Diana’s Mercedes smashed into the underpass wall, killing her boyfriend Dodi Fayed and their French chauffeur Henri Paul.

An SAS sniper, known only as Soldier N, has since said Diana was murdered, adding to the growing belief that her death may not have been an accident.

Former Foreign Secretary had final say over SAS ‘license to kill’ [EPA]

Around 30 SAS soldiers who were serving in 1997 have now been re-interviewed in an internal probe.

On April 7, 2008, an inquest jury concluded that Diana and Dodi were unlawfully killed by the “grossly negligent” driving of Henri Paul and pursuing paparazzi photographers, but such findings have been hotly disputed.

Now it is argued that Diana was murdered when a piercing light was shone directly at the car she was travelling in.

Soldier N’s ex-wife told Scotland Yard detectives last month that her former husband decided to confide all to her after taking Prince William, then 26, on an advanced driving course in 2008.

He told his wife he already knew of the alleged plot to kill her, but a face-to-face encounter with the young prince convinced him to open up for the first time.

Will There Ever Be an Investigation Into the Death of ROBIN COOK…? TAP News Posted by Robert Cook September 21st 2019

Sat 5:46 am +00:00, 22 Aug 2015 14 posted by Gordon


I happened to notice that a week or so ago was the 10th anniversary of the death of the Labour MP and former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook.

An apparently fit and healthy Mr Cook died in 2005 while walking on a remote Scottish mountainside, at the age of 59, and – according to the official statements – from a heart attack. Something tells me that the Chilcot Inquiry, whenever it eventually does emerge, will probably make no mention of Mr Cook’s death.

The local police’s statement after Cook’s death was a little iffy, to say the least; “As this would appear to be a medical matter,” we were told, “there is no further police involvement.” And that was it – case closed, without a real investigation having been conducted.

Just as curious was the fact that the newspapers and news media didn’t seem particularly interested in investigating Cook’s death either and the matter seemed to be pushed to one side very quickly; which is odd when it concerns the death of a highly significant political figure and the man who had only very recently been the nation’s Foreign Secretary.

Robin Cook had died very suddenly, supposedly from a heart attack while on a countryside walk with his wife. But despite the media’s remarkably limited and unquestioning coverage of the matter, there were irregularities around the circumstances of Cook’s death. Cook was rushed to hospital by helicopter without his wife, who was not permitted to accompany him, even though he was still alive at that point. The helicopter, according to newspaper reports, had taken 30 minutes to arrive at the scene. As her husband was flown off, Mrs Cook was left to walk all the way back down the Scottish mountainside on her own.

By the time she got to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, her husband had already been pronounced dead. Gaynor Cook, his wife, has never spoken about the matter to this day, despite requests from various media organisations. The post-mortem took two days to decide whether Mr Cook “had died from an illness or injuries sustained in the fall”. The cause of death eventually settled on was ‘hypertensive heart disease’.

We were told that neither Mr Cook or his wife were carrying mobile phones with them; which, though possible, seems odd, as this was only 2005 – not the early nineties.

There is also the matter of the unidentified group of ‘walkers’ who, according to official reporting, came to Gaynor Cook’s aid when her husband had collapsed in the highlands. Is is, however, noted by some that it would’ve been unusual for such people to be around the area of Ben Stack where Mr Cook had collapsed. The landlady of Scourie Lodge, where Robin Cook and his wife had spent their final night together, had said at the time, “She was lucky another walker was in the area to be with her at such a time. You could be on Ben Stack ninety times and not see a soul, so for someone to be within shouting distance and with a mobile phone was very fortunate.”

Which leads us to wonder whether these unidentified people may have been there at that time for a more specific reason and whether they may have been something more than friendly passers-by.

Tony Blair, who was at that time still Prime Minister (and who had, some years earlier, demoted Cook to a lesser post for fear of Cook being a problem in regard to foreign policy), declined to attend Mr Cook’s funeral; the excuse given being that he was apparently busy with other matters at the time. It was Gordon Brown who gave the eulogy at Cook’s funeral service.


Cook (pictured on the right above), of course, had been one of the most ardent objectors to British involvement in the Iraq War. In fact he famously resigned from the Labour Party in protest over the decision to invade Iraq. “I have heard it said that Iraq has had not months but 12 years in which to complete disarmament and that our patience is exhausted,” Mr Cook had said at the time, “yet it is more than 30 years since Resolution 242 called on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories. We do not express the same impatience with the persistent refusal of Israel to comply.”

He also later was open about his scepticism concerning the Al-Qaeda narrative. “There were no international terrorists in Iraq until we went in. It was we who created the conditions for Al-Qaeda to thrive,” he had said, refuting the idea that the US-led invasion had been aimed at ‘fighting terrorism’. He was correct, of course; there had been no terrorism coming from Iraq prior to 2003, no extremist groups active in Iraq prior to 2003, and Iraq had had absolutely no connection to 9/11. Iraq, like Libya soon to follow, had been a stable, secular country until Western operations callously turned it into an Al-Qaeda/terrorist stronghold.

It was Robin Cook’s sense of ethics more than anything that had guided his protest against the Blair government’s war; that same sense of ethics had been present in much of Mr Cook’s political career.

He was an early supporter of constitutional and electoral reform, and a supporter of unilateral nuclear disarmament. Among other things, Cook was responsible for the agreement between Britain and Iran that ended the Iranian death threat against the author Salman Rushdie, helping Britain and Iran to improve diplomatic relations. He is also the man most credited with having helped convince Gaddafi-era Libya, after over eight years of resistance, to hand over the suspected Lockerbie bombers for a trial in the Netherlands (but crucially according to Scottish law). This Libyan extradition of the Lockerbie suspects (who it turns out were probably innocent anyway) was a major reason that Libya and the West were able to ‘reconcile’ for those brief few years, with the Gaddafi government becoming a key ally in the so-called ‘War on Terror’.

His openly stated desire to add “an ethical dimension” to British foreign policy didn’t only see him falling out with the Blair government over the Iraq War; in March 1998, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu angrily cancelled a dinner with Cook when the British Foreign Secretary did that rare thing (for a Western politician) and openly criticised illegal Israeli settlement building in Palestinian territory.

His opposition to the Iraq War was one of the key themes in his widely acclaimed book, The Point of Departure, which, among other things, discussed in diary form his efforts to persuade his colleagues, including Tony Blair, to distance the Labour Government from the Geo-political agendas of the Neo-Con/Bush administration (obviously to no avail). Cook’s resignation speech in the House of Commons (video shown above – and notice Jeremy Corbyn on Cook’s right) received a standing ovation by fellow MPs, and it was described by the BBC’s Andrew Marr as “without doubt one of the most effective, brilliant resignation speeches in modern British politics.”

According to Cook’s obituary in The Economist‍, this had in fact been the first speech ever to receive a standing ovation in the history of the House, and it was a substantial embarrassment to the Blair government.

Summing up the character of the Iraq invasion, Mr Cook had said; “Ironically, it is only because Iraq’s military forces are so weak that we can even contemplate its invasion. Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term – namely a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target. It probably still has biological toxins and battlefield chemical munitions, but it has had them since the 1980s when US companies sold Saddam anthrax agents and the then British Government approved chemical and munitions factories. Why is it now so urgent that we should take military action to disarm a military capacity that has been there for 20 years and which we helped to create?”

It was also Robin Cook who was willing to openly state, in 2005, that Al-Qaeda was little more than a long-held ‘database of mujahideen and fighters’, stating that the myth of a real terrorist network called ‘Al-Qaeda’ and led by Osama bin Laden was simply a fiction concocted and maintained by the CIA.


In a column for The Guardian just weeks before his death, he expressed that view; a view that has since been borne out absolutely by facts. Al-Qaeda of course does exist now, but only due to a kind of self-fulfilled prophecy; but at that time, and the time of 9/11, it is very doubtful that the organisation  existed as anything like the highly-organised ‘bogeyman’ it was being portrayed as. Robin Cook, and many other British politicians – in the Foreign Office at the very least – would’ve been well aware of that, and well aware of the fact that British intelligence had been working with Al-Qaeda affiliates for many years, for example in the ongoing operation in Libya to assassinate Gaddafi.

Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker was among those who believe that Cook did not die of natural causes, but was the victim of an intelligence agency assassination. If true, Mr Cook, like the weapons expert Dr David Kelly, might be seen as yet another domestic victim of the Iraq War conspiracy; a war that was carried out against the wishes of the British people, against the rules of international law, a war based on proven lies, a war that was entirely unnecessary, and a war that we are still all living with the consequences of.

The absolute lack of interest by virtually all of the mainstream media in looking into the death of Robin Cook remains very suspect, just like the lack of police interest at the time. Then again, even should an investigation be carried out, it probably wouldn’t be a reliable one anyway – as anyone who studies the Diana inquest will find out for themselves. That, in all likelihood, will also apply to the Chilcot Inquiry, which for all the interminable delays that have prevented its publication, is unlikely to accomplish very much.

Editorial Comment The British public think intelligence devised assassinations only happen in Holloywood films. They have a sentimental view of the past and think such behaviour just ‘isn’t cricket old boy.’ Robin Cook signed his death warrant by pointing out that Bin Laden was trained by the CIA and SAS and that Al-Qaeda was his rebels’ code name, meaning DATA FILE. Cook wrote this in ‘The Guardian’ five weeks before his death.

I was at a party held in the House of Commons terrace marque during the run up to the Blair Bush invasion of Iraq in 2003. While chatting with Norwich New Labour MP Ian Gibson, I noticed he was wearing a lapel badge which said : ‘Don’t attack Iraq.’ So I asked him how he could serve under Tony Blair because in my view an attack was imminent. ‘Oh the boy is learning’ he replied in his Victor Meldrew style soft condescending Scottish accent. I met Gibson at another party, two years later in Norwich. He was in the company of upper class actor Tim Bentick. Gibson mocked me, shouting out; ‘He’s here, the last rebel.’ The essence of New Labour, the fake modernisers defies description beyond the words ‘lizard like.’

Robert Cook September 22nd 2019

Why Does the U.S. Support Saudi Arabia, A Country Which Hosts and Finances Islamic Terrorism? On Behalf of Washington? Posted September 22nd 2019

By Washington’s Blog Global Research, November 29, 2017 Washington’s Blog and Global Research 30 August 2014 Region: Middle East & North Africa Theme: Intelligence, Terrorism

First published in August 2014, this essay brings to the forefront Washington’s relentless support for Saudi Arabia, a State sponsor of terror, which has been waging since 2015 a war on the people of Yemen, tantamount to genocide.   

America Has Sold Its Soul for Oil

Why Does the U.S. Support a Country which was FOUNDED With Terrorism

A U.S. congressman for 6 years,  who is now a talking head on MSNBC (Joe Scarborough) says that – even if the Saudi government backed the 9/11 attacks – Saudi oil is too important to do anything about it:
This is not an isolated incident. It is a microcosm of U.S.-Saudi relations.


By way of background, former MI6 agent Alastair Crooke notes that Saudi Arabia was founded with terrorism:

One dominant strand to the Saudi identity pertains directly to Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab (the founder of Wahhabism), and the use to which his radical, exclusionist puritanism was put by Ibn Saud. (The latter was then no more than a minor leader — amongst many — of continually sparring and raiding Bedouin tribes in the baking and desperately poor deserts of the Nejd.)


Abd al-Wahhab demanded conformity — a conformity that was to be demonstrated in physical and tangible ways. He argued that all Muslims must individually pledge their allegiance to a single Muslim leader (a Caliph, if there were one). Those who would not conform to this view should be killed, their wives and daughters violated, and their possessions confiscated, he wrote. The list of apostates meriting death included the Shiite, Sufis and other Muslim denominations, whom Abd al-Wahhab did not consider to be Muslim at all.


Abd al-Wahhab’s advocacy of these ultra radical views inevitably led to his expulsion from his own town — and in 1741, after some wanderings, he found refuge under the protection of Ibn Saud and his tribe. What Ibn Saud perceived in Abd al-Wahhab’s novel teaching was the means to overturn Arab tradition and convention. It was a path to seizing power.

Ibn Saud’s clan, seizing on Abd al-Wahhab’s doctrine, now could do what they always did, which was raiding neighboring villages and robbing them of their possessions. Only now they were doing it not within the ambit of Arab tradition, but rather under the banner of jihad. Ibn Saud and Abd al-Wahhab also reintroduced the idea of martyrdom in the name of jihad, as it granted those martyred immediate entry into paradise.


Their strategy — like that of ISIS today — was to bring the peoples whom they conquered into submission. They aimed to instill fear. In 1801, the Allies attacked the Holy City of Karbala in Iraq. They massacred thousands of Shiites, including women and children. Many Shiite shrines were destroyed, including the shrine of Imam Hussein, the murdered grandson of Prophet Muhammad.

A British official, Lieutenant Francis Warden, observing the situation at the time, wrote: “They pillaged the whole of it [Karbala], and plundered the Tomb of Hussein… slaying in the course of the day, with circumstances of peculiar cruelty, above five thousand of the inhabitants …”

Osman Ibn Bishr Najdi, the historian of the first Saudi state, wrote that Ibn Saud committed a massacre in Karbala in 1801. He proudly documented that massacre saying, “we took Karbala and slaughtered and took its people (as slaves), then praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds, and we do not apologize for that and say: ‘And to the unbelievers: the same treatment.’”

In 1803, Abdul Aziz then entered the Holy City of Mecca, which surrendered under the impact of terror and panic (the same fate was to befall Medina, too). Abd al-Wahhab’s followers demolished historical monuments and all the tombs and shrines in their midst. By the end, they had destroyed centuries of Islamic architecture near the Grand Mosque.


With the advent of the oil bonanza — as the French scholar, Giles Kepel writes, Saudi goals were to “reach out and spread Wahhabism across the Muslim world … to “Wahhabise” Islam, thereby reducing the “multitude of voices within the religion” to a “single creed” — a movement which would transcend national divisions. Billions of dollars were — and continue to be — invested in this manifestation of soft power.


It was this heady mix of billion dollar soft power projection — and the Saudi willingness to manage Sunni Islam both to further America’s interests, as it concomitantly embedded Wahhabism educationally, socially and culturally throughout the lands of Islam — that brought into being a western policy dependency on Saudi Arabia, a dependency that has endured since Abd-al Aziz’s meeting with Roosevelt on a U.S. warship (returning the president from the Yalta Conference) until today.


The more radical Islamist movements were perceived by Western intelligence services as being more effective in toppling the USSR in Afghanistan — and in combatting out-of-favor Middle Eastern leaders and states.Why should we be surprised then, that from Prince Bandar’s Saudi-Western mandate to manage the insurgency in Syria against President Assad should have emerged a neo-Ikhwan type of violent, fear-inducing vanguard movement: ISIS?

Frontline notes:

Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, founder of “Wahhabism,” an austere form of Islam, arrives in the central Arabian state of Najd in 1744 preaching a return to “pure” Islam. He seeks protection from the local emir, Muhammad ibn Saud, head of the Al Saud tribal family, and they cut a deal. The Al Saud will endorse al-Wahhab’s austere form of Islam and in return, the Al Saud will get political legitimacy and regular tithes from al-Wahhab’s followers. The religious-political alliance that al-Wahhab and Saud forge endures to this day in Saudi Arabia.

By the 19th century, the Al Saud has spread its influence across the Arabian Peninsula, stretching from the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf and including the Two Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina.


By 1945, the U.S. urgently needs oil facilities to help supply forces fighting in the Second World War. Meanwhile, security is at the forefront of King Abd al-Aziz’s concerns. President Franklin Roosevelt invites the king to meet him aboard the U.S.S. Quincy, docked in the Suez Canal. The two leaders cement a secret oil-for-security pact: The king guarantees to give the U.S. secure access to Saudi oil and in exchange the U.S. will provide military assistance and training to Saudi Arabia and build the Dhahran military base.

U.S. presidents have been extremely close to the Saudi monarchs ever since.

The Progressive notes:

The ideology of the Saudi regime is that of ISIS even if the foreign policies differ,” California State University-Stanislaus Professor Asad AbuKhalil tells The Progressive.


Wahhabi Islam [the official ideology of the Saudi monarchy] is fully in sync with ISIS.”

But instead of isolating the Saudi regime from the global mainstream, President Obama paid a visit there earlier this year, meeting with King Abdullah. He reportedly did not discuss the regime’s dubious conduct.

“I can’t think of a more pernicious actor in the region,” British-Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid told me in an interview last year. “The House of Saud has exported this very pernicious form of militant Islam under U.S. watch. Then the United States comes in repeatedly to attack symptoms of this problem without ever addressing the basic issue: Where does it all come from? Who’s at the heart of this thing? It would be like saying that if you have skin rash because of cancer, the best option is to cut off your skin. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Yet, the United States continues with this approach.

Even establishment opinion is recognizing the dimensions of the Saudi problem.

“It can’t be exporting extremism and at the same time ask the United States to protect it,” Retired General (and onetime presidential contender) Wesley Clark recently told CNN.

“Al Qaeda, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Boko Haram, the Shabab and others are all violent Sunni Salafi groupings,” Ed Husain of the Council on Foreign Relations recently wrote in the New York Times. “For five decades, Saudi Arabia has been the official sponsor of Sunni Salafism [another term for Wahhabism] across the globe.”

Such entities “have been lavishly supported by the Saudi government, which has appointed emissaries to its embassies in Muslim countries who proselytize for Salafism,” he adds.


Then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in a December 2009 leaked diplomatic cable that entities in Saudi Arabia were the “most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”


Yet the United States keeps mum because the Saudi monarchy serves U.S. interests. Due to its pivotal role in OPEC, it makes sure that crude oil prices don’t rise above a certain level. It is a key purchaser of American weapons. It invests in U.S. government bonds. And it has acted in the past as proxy for covert U.S. actions, such as funneling arms and funding to the Nicaraguan contras.


Until Saudi Arabia stops sponsoring the most reactionary brands of Sunni Islam, this U.S. ally will remain responsible for much of the mayhem in the Muslim world.

The Independent headlines “Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country”:

Some time before 9/11, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, once the powerful Saudi ambassador in Washington and head of Saudi intelligence until a few months ago, had a revealing and ominous conversation with the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove. Prince Bandar told him: “The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally ‘God help the Shia’. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.”


There is no doubt about the accuracy of the quote by Prince Bandar, secretary-general of the Saudi National Security Council from 2005 and head of General Intelligence between 2012 and 2014, the crucial two years when al-Qa’ida-type jihadis took over the Sunni-armed opposition in Iraq and Syria. Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute last week, Dearlove, who headed MI6 from 1999 to 2004, emphasised the significance of Prince Bandar’s words, saying that they constituted “a chilling comment that I remember very well indeed”.

He does not doubt that substantial and sustained funding from private donors in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to which the authorities may have turned a blind eye, has played a central role in the Isis surge into Sunni areas of Iraq. He said: “Such things simply do not happen spontaneously.” This sounds realistic since the tribal and communal leadership in Sunni majority provinces is much beholden to Saudi and Gulf paymasters, and would be unlikely to cooperate with Isis without their consent.


Unfortunately, Christians in areas captured by Isis are finding this is not true, as their churches are desecrated and they are forced to flee. A difference between al-Qa’ida and Isis is that the latter is much better organised; if it does attack Western targets the results are likely to be devastating.


Dearlove … sees Saudi strategic thinking as being shaped by two deep-seated beliefs or attitudes. First, they are convinced that there “can be no legitimate or admissible challenge to the Islamic purity of their Wahhabi credentials as guardians of Islam’s holiest shrines”. But, perhaps more significantly given the deepening Sunni-Shia confrontation, the Saudi belief that they possess a monopoly of Islamic truth leads them to be “deeply attracted towards any militancy which can effectively challenge Shia-dom”.

Western governments traditionally play down the connection between Saudi Arabia and its Wahhabist faith, on the one hand, and jihadism, whether of the variety espoused by Osama bin Laden and al-Qa’ida or by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s Isis. There is nothing conspiratorial or secret about these links: 15 out of 19 of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, as was Bin Laden and most of the private donors who funded the operation.


But there has always been a second theme to Saudi policy towards al-Qa’ida type jihadis, contradicting Prince Bandar’s approach and seeing jihadis as a mortal threat to the Kingdom. Dearlove illustrates this attitude by relating how, soon after 9/11, he visited the Saudi capital Riyadh with Tony Blair.

He remembers the then head of Saudi General Intelligence “literally shouting at me across his office: ’9/11 is a mere pinprick on the West. In the medium term, it is nothing more than a series of personal tragedies. What these terrorists want is to destroy the House of Saud and remake the Middle East.’” In the event, Saudi Arabia adopted both policies, encouraging the jihadis as a useful tool of Saudi anti-Shia influence abroad but suppressing them at home as a threat to the status quo. It is this dual policy that has fallen apart over the last year.

Saudi sympathy for anti-Shia “militancy” is identified in leaked US official documents. The then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in December 2009 in a cable released by Wikileaks that “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan] and other terrorist groups.”


Saudi Arabia and its allies are in practice playing into the hands of Isis which is swiftly gaining full control of the Sunni opposition in Syria and Iraq.


For all his gargantuan mistakes, Maliki’s failings are not the reason why the Iraqi state is disintegrating. What destabilised Iraq from 2011 on was the revolt of the Sunni in Syria and the takeover of that revolt by jihadis, who were often sponsored by donors in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates. Again and again Iraqi politicians warned that by not seeking to close down the civil war in Syria, Western leaders were making it inevitable that the conflict in Iraq would restart. “I guess they just didn’t believe us and were fixated on getting rid of [President Bashar al-] Assad,” said an Iraqi leader in Baghdad last week.


Saudi Arabia has created a Frankenstein’s monster over which it is rapidly losing control. The same is true of its allies such as Turkey which has been a vital back-base for Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra by keeping the 510-mile-long Turkish-Syrian border open.

As we’ve extensively documented, the Saudis and the U.S. backed the radical “madrassas” in which Islamic radicalism was spread.

Indeed, the U.S. is backing the most radical Muslim terrorists in the world: the Salafis, who are heavily concentrated in Saudi Arabia, while overthrowing the more moderate Arabs.Declassified 9/11 Report Portrays US-Saudis as Partners in Crime The original source of this article is Washington’s Blog and Global Research Copyright © Washington’s Blog, Washington’s Blog and Global Research, 2017

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RAF Seletar – Singapore

The Last Spitfire Operational Sortie

PS888 'The Last' Seletar 1954 (1)


(takes to the skies once more).

By David Taylor

First published in the August 2004 (issue 23) of Searchlight

50 years after the event (April 1st 1954), the 81 Squadron Spitfire that flew the type’s last operational sortie in RAF service from Seletar has taken to the air once again; well, almost! It all began in July 2002 when George Yallop, an ex ARS engine fitter, submitted a photograph of Spitfire PR Mk XIX PS888 to the Daily Mail, for their “Every Picture Tells a Story” feature. The words, The Last!’ were painted on the port side engine cowling, and the text related to how this aircraft had flown the RAF’s last operational sortie of a Spitfire. At the time, I contacted the Mail, sending them a letter for onpass to George, inviting him to join the Association. I never received a reply, but have since learned that George is so into Riley cars he has no time for anything else.

Another person to see that article, aviation photographer and Spitfire historian, Peter Arnold, decided to take things a stage or two further. During a chance meeting with Sqn Ldr Paul Day, at the time CO of the BBMF at Coningsby, he made the suggestion that if, when the six year major service and repaint of their PR Mk XIX PS915 was due, they wished to paint it as The Last!’, he would do the research and prepare the drawings. With the go ahead being given, PS 915 emerged from its winter 2003-04 major inspection, contracted to the Aircraft Restoration Company at Duxford, as PS888, in almost every aspect apart from the registration.

Of course, the story was a lot more complicated than that, for with only monochrome photos available, they needed information from somewhere as to colouring etc. Enter Brian Rose (464), ex ARS aircraft finisher (and friend of George Yallop; which is how I came to know about the Rileys!) – in fact it was Brian who supplied the paint for the lettering. The words were in fact applied about an hour after the aircraft returned from its mission – a photo-recce sortie over a suspected bandit camp in Johore – one George Travis, 81 Sqn member, and ex sign-writer, turning up with a cigarette tin, requesting Brian to fill it with white paint, and to supply a brush. Once duly painted, Sqn Ldr Swaby, the pilot, and 81 Sqn CO, along with the Station CO, Grp Cpt T King, conducted a small ceremony out by the aircraft, and that was it. Well, not quite, as an extract from my book, Seletar- Crowning Glory, explains:

81 Squadron also featured prominently in the news in April 1954, when on the 1st of the month Spitfire PR19, PS888, took off from Seletar to make what was to be the last operational flight of the type with the Royal Air Force. Strange, that, to all but 81 Squadron. Some months earlier they had been piqued to learn that not only had 60 Squadron (Tengah) been credited with flying the last operational sortie, back in 1951, but that Rolls Royce and Vickers Armstrong had actually presented them with silver model Spitfire to commemorate the event!

Sqn Ldr W P Swaby, 81’s Squadron Commander, decided to take the matter up officially, and in a letter to Far East Air Force Headquarters he stated:

It is noted that the flying carried out by the Spitfires of No. 81 Squadron should not have been classified operational with effect from January 1st 1951, and you are therefore requested to transfer the total of 1874.25 hours and 1029 operational sorties flown from that date to the training columns. Alternatively, the squadron will be pleased to accept an 18 inch high silver model of a Spitfire from the Commanding Officer of No. 60 Squadron in commemoration of current operations.

A result of all this was that, on November 21st 1954, Rolls Royce and Vickers Armstrong made amends for someone else’s error by presenting 81 Squadron with their own silver Spitfire. The presentation had been made by no less a personality than Mr Jeffrey Quill, OBE AFC, who, as the former Supermarine Chief Test Pilot, had flown every mark of Spitfire, including the first prototype in 1936.

What I’d be interested in finding out – been chasing after it for some years now, especially for my book on Seletar, but no luck so far – are details of that presentation. We know it was made by Jeffery Quill, we know the date; but how and where? Someone who was on the Sqn at the time must recall some details, but I haven’t yet been able to come up with any answers. I even contacted the Spitfire Association, British Aerospace (no longer any records of Vickers Supermarine), and Alex Henshaw, ex-racer, record breaker (in fact, believe it or not, his London – Capetown record, down the West coast of Africa, set in 1939, still stands!), Spitfire test pilot and good friend of the late Jeffery Quill, all to no avail. Does anyone out there possess any of this information?

Now for a few facts, rumours, was-told-by’s, etc on 81 Sqn’s Spitfires; gleaned from ex Sqn members, so don’t quote me!

At the time the squadron had three Spitfires: PS888, PS890, plus one other, serial unknown.

According to Keith Priest (177), that last Op was actually thought to have been a failure due to camera problems.

One Spitfire remained at Seletar for up to a year (Al Taylor arrived on 81 in April 55 and it was there then), presumably as a Station hack, and Sqn Ldr Swaby’s plaything! Yet, as Bob North (95) recalls it:

Some weeks or months later the three Spits were sold to the Royal Thailand Air Force. A fairly large group of RTAF bods arrived with so much gold braid on their shoulders you wouldn’t believe it. Their instruction in flying the planes seemed to consist mainly of three or four of them at a time leaning over the cockpits and having all the gubbins explained to them. They then took it in turns to fly. They were very brave men but not very good pilots as most of the landings were something to behold – such as dropping down onto the runway from about twenty feet up, and then bouncing up again. I was surprised that any of them were airworthy for the flight to Thailand.

PS890 was presented to the Planes Of Fame Museum, Chino California, in the late 50’s. She eventually flew about two years ago, albeit with contra-rotating props and clipped wings. I did have the pleasure of seeing this plane just a few months before she flew again.

Al Taylor (114), in Queensland, offers the following:

With Tengah-based 60 Sqdn having laid claim to the honour of flying the Spitfire’s last Operational sortie in 1951 (a ground attack mission), working on the assumption that PR flights did not count as ops, but forgetting that they had no target without 81’s PR prowess.

The theory is posed, to end the sour grapes by 60 Sqdn at having had the honour rightfully wrested from their grasp, that the matter should be ended once and for all by an air to ground attack on 60 Sqdn lines. Approval was apparently forthcoming, (Sqn Ldr Swaby, in his quest for justice, again went right to the top – H.Q. F.E.A.F.or maybe even the MOD?) and this raid was given ‘Firedog1 status, with authority to use 200 sheet ‘Aunty Mary’ issue Bog Rolls. Bog Rolls were duly armed to unravel upon release and installed in the Spitfire PR 19 bomb rack flaps and 1/4 flaps selected. It is said that PS 888, still bearing The Last!’ livery, was used for this operation.

The above would indicate that this “Op” took place after April 1954, although Bob North seems to think it was in 52/53, before he joined the Sqn, and certainly before PS888’s mission, therefore well before the livery was applied, so maybe that was a separate issue?

Data held at Hendon on PS888 is as follows:

2/4/45 6 MU (Service delivery)

24/4/45 IPPBenson

17/6/45 542 Squadron

12/10/45 6 MU

13/12/50 Dispatched FEAF via Chivenor

27/12/50 Arrived FEAF

31/1/51 MBFE (Storage) – (MBFE: Maintenance Base, Far East?)

31/1/51 81 Squadron

3/6/53 Flying accident – damage category 3*

Sqn Ldr Swaby

5/6/53 Re-categorised Category A

15/4/54 MBASE(R) PI

Struck Off Charge

3/6/54 Transferred to Thai Air Force.

*Accident card records that at 0950GH Sergeant D G Hood was landing at Seletar after a formation sortie. The aircraft “touched down heavily with side load causing u/c to collapse”.

“Pilot lacks practice on Spitfires – to be restricted to Mosquitos for remainder of tour.”

Taxiing in (George Jarvis with chock )

Photos by Brian Rose

Adding the script-enhanced-1

PS888 Adding the script(Photo Brian Rose)

Sqn Ldr Swaby exits

Taxiing in (George Jarvis with chock )(Photo Brian Rose)

SqnLdr W P Sawby-1

Sqn Ldr Swaby

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